sultan al neyadi after splashdown on sep 4
Al Neyadi and other Crew-6 members splashed down in the waters off Florida after six months onboard the International Space Station Image Credit: NASA

Dubai: In a historic achievement that elevated the UAE’s space ambitions to stellar heights, astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi on Monday made his triumphant return to Earth after completing the longest Arab space mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and making the entire country proud of him.

The culmination of his space voyage spanning six months, not only cemented the UAE’s place in an exclusive spacefaring club but also created a monumental chapter in the nation’s space odyssey through the success of Zayed Ambition 2, the second part of the UAE Astronaut Programme.

Congratulations from the leadership

As the nation celebrated yet another pinnacle in the UAE’s ascent among the titans of space exploration, President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai and President of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, led the country in congratulating the Sultan of Space and welcoming him back to Earth.

The Najmonaut (Arab astronaut), who spent 186 days in space, orbiting Earth around 3,000 times, was the last of the four NASA SpaceX Crew-6 crew members to egress from the Dragon positioned on the recovery platform of SpaceX recovery vessel Megan.

As he briefly “set foot” on the vessel’s deck exactly an hour after splashdown and got rolled out to the medical bay, Al Neyadi wore a big smile and showed the thumbs-up victory sign.

Descent to Earth

Prior to the splashdown at 8.17am in the UAE, the Dragon spacecraft followed a series of critical phases, including phasing burns, trunk jettison, deorbit burn, re-entry, parachute deployment, and finally, splashdown.

The re-entry phase involved a blackout period of seven minutes due to plasma formation outside the spacecraft during the descent. This phase was challenging as the Dragon Endeavour experienced temperatures exceeding 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Communication signals were temporarily lost but were successfully reestablished after this period. Due to the heat shield’s work during re-entry, the spacecraft slowed down from 17,000 to 350 miles per hour, and the thermal protection systems (TPS) shielded the Dragon from the extreme heat.