Dubai: UAE students are rejoicing the return of Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, with some of them having interacted with him while he was in space.
The ‘Sultan of Space’ is coming home after completing the longest Arab space mission - spanning six months - which included a spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS).
Thousands of students in the UAE and elsewhere had seen him on video link from ISS during the ‘A Call from Space’ sessions, during which he took some questions from the pupils.
Nirav Sahityani, Year 13 student at Jumeirah College, said his school holds a special attachment to Al Neyadi, as he has influenced many students to pursue space research. “Thirty students created a ‘welcome back’ video on social media for Al Neyadi. We also had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to talk to Al Neyadi while he was still aboard the ISS.”
Nirav had the opportunity to ask Al Neyadi a question as well.
“I was very curious to learn about space travel and the training that goes behind to send astronauts into space. So one of my questions to Al Neyadi was, ‘what was the difference between training on a simulator and space travel in real life?’ I was thrilled when he gave me an answer.”
Emirati student Alia Al Sharif, a Grade 5 student of American Academy for Girls, said: “It must have been such an amazing experience for Al Neyadi to be in space and now back on Earth. I am so inspired and I wish I can become the first Emirati woman to travel to Mars one day.”
Ema Mariyam Jolly, a Grade 12 student of Credence High School, said: “As a space enthusiast who is very interested about the universe and celestial bodies, I was always intrigued by milestones that we humans could achieve in outer space. The successful experiments led by astronaut Al Neyadi regarding a wide range of subjects led to new insights helping the scientific community in UAE and beyond.”
She added: “As a proud resident of Dubai, it gives me immense joy to witness the spectacular achievements of Al Neyadi and UAE and to welcome him back.”
Sami Hamid Hassan, Year 13 student at Jumeirah College, said: “It was on September 25, 2019 that I keenly watched Hazzaa Al Mansouri [the first Emirati astronaut] launch into outer space. Since then, I have had the pleasure of meeting him at the Emirates Literature Festival, and my passion for space has only grown. Fast forward to March 2, 2023, once again I watched in awe as the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour [taking Al Neyadi and other Crew-6 members] broke through the atmosphere and docked with the ISS.”
Sami added: “Although he was not the first Arab in space, Al Neyadi was the first Arab to perform a spacewalk. Being an Arab myself, I wonder how many times other Arab astronauts will attempt a spacewalk before I do it myself one day. The influence Al Neyadi has had on people will be eternal. His achievements are etched in the history of mankind. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre can only scale greater heights.”
He continued: “I was ecstatic when I first heard that our school had an opportunity to communicate with him in space. I asked him what personal items he had taken to ISS and why? He said he had taken traditional Emirati dishes with him to remind him of his homeland.”
Aleksandra, a Year 8 student at Amity International School Abu Dhabi, said: “Al Neyadi is an inspiration to all of us at Amity International School Abu Dhabi. We have followed his journey in space, and it has been exciting to see our UAE astronaut on board the ISS. Space exploration is now a reality for young people, and the opportunities are limitless. We are looking forward to UAE achieving even greater things in apace.”
Hoping for meeting
Priyanshu, a Grade 10 student from The Indian International School DSO, said: “Al Neyadi’s journey has been an incredible source of inspiration for us. We’ve closely followed his adventures, and they’ve awakened a newfound passion for scientific exploration that we never knew existed within us. His accomplishments have not only filled the UAE with pride but have also set a high standard for us to aspire for in our pursuit of scientific excellence. Our school was resonating with cheers of jubilation upon hearing AlNeyadi’s safe landing. I want to express our heartfelt gratitude to him for being an outstanding role model. We eagerly anticipate the possibility of interacting with him shortly.”
Mohammed Almansoori of Raha International School, Gardens Campus, Abu Dhabi, said: “Al Neyadi is brave, smart and a role model for new generations. His incredible achievements while serving on the ISS, including being the first Arab astronaut to perform a spacewalk, has shown me that my dreams can be accomplished if I work hard and pursue my passion. I am thankful for our leaders’ support. With such leadership and our nation’s commitment to space exploration and scientific research, I hope I can realise my dream of going to Mars.”