Dubai: In a historic milestone in the history of Arab space exploration, UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi ventured out into the vacuum outside the International Space Station (ISS) to perform the first Arab spacewalk this evening.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, hailed the achievement of "the first Emirati, the first Arab, the first Muslim, to walk in outer space."
The much anticipated event was livestreamed by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre (MBRSC), the agency behind the UAE Astronaut Programme in Dubai, from 4.30pm UAE time at mbrsc.ae/live
“Counting down the hours until we pass through the ISS airlock into space. Wearing the spacesuit and proudly bearing the UAE flag on my arm, I will soon be undertaking the Arab world’s first spacewalk. Wish us luck!” he tweeted.
One of the images he posted showed him wearing the flag of the UAE on the shoulder of his all-white spacesuit called Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU).
Another tweet by MBRSC shared details about his spacesuit, which weighs 145kg while on Earth.
Al Neyadi was joined by NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen for the spacewalk to upgrade the space station’s power generation system and to retrieve a major communication equipment.
The ‘Sultan of Space’ took ‘Zayed’s Ambition’ and the UAE’s flag to outer space when he stepped out of the Quest Airlock of the station at around 5.30pm UAE time.
Al Neyadi is EV-2 while Bowen is EV-1 in an EMU with red stripes for the spacewalk, formally known as Extravehicular Activity (EVA).
It’s a Go!
NASA had said it is a go for the spacewalk as the duo got ready for the mission, which is considered as the riskiest job for an astronaut.
Their fitness evaluations and robotic tests were conducted aboard the orbital outpost on Thursday. They also finalised their tool collections and Quest airlock configurations.
“They staged their Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), or spacesuits, inside Quest and finished studying the procedures they will use to route power cables and retrieve an antenna on the station’s starboard truss structure. The external hardware work will ready the space station for its next set of roll-out solar arrays due to be installed after their delivery on the next SpaceX Dragon cargo mission,” said NASA earlier.
Bowen and Al Neyadi set their EMUs to battery power at around 5.15pm, signifying the beginning of their spacewalk. This will be Bowen’s eighth career spacewalk, and the fourth of 2023 on ISS.
NASA flight engineers Frank Rubio and Woody Hoburg participated in Thursday’s final spacewalk preparations joining the spacewalkers for a procedures review, tool checks, and a conference with engineers on the ground. Rubio and Hoburg, will assist the spacewalkers in and out of their spacesuits, manoeuver the Canadarm2 robotic arm, and monitor the activities.
When NASA astronauts conduct spacewalks, they rely on the Mission Control Center (MCC) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to help them complete their tasks.
The UAE’s first astronaut and Al Neyadi’s back-up on this mission, Hazzaa Al Mansouri is the first Arab Increment Lead responsible for the seamless integration and execution of ISS crew activities including spacewalks. The Mission Control Centre team at the MBRSC is monitoring and coordinating from Dubai.