sultan al neyadi on iss
The UAE's space dream has come true and the march continues, Al Neyadi tweeted his first selfie from space on Wednesday Image Credit: Twitter/@Astro_Alneyadi

Dubai: Travelling at 28,000km per hour on the International Space Station (ISS), UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi is getting up to speed with life on orbit, US space agency NASA has said.

Al Neyadi has also swung into action installing space biology hardware and replacing electronic components.

On Wednesday, he tweeted a picture of himself on ISS, saying: "From space, I salute earth. I salute our homeland and its leaders. I salute all those who carried Zayed’s Ambition in their hearts and aim high to the sky. The dream has come true and now we dream bigger."

The photo shows him against the background of the cupola on the ISS. Cupola is a small observatory dome-like module designed for the observation of operations outside the station such as robotic activities, the approach of vehicles, and spacewalks.

Prior to his launch to ISS, Al Neyadi had said he would carry a camera for taking photos of watching Earth through the cupola.

“All astronauts run towards the Cupola to watch Earth or see Earth from there. I want to do it differently. I want to go there with a camera, hopefully. So I want to share that moment with everybody. I want to capture that moment of looking back, back towards Earth with everybody. Yeah, so that’s probably the moment I’m looking forward to,” he said in a NASA podcast.

On Wednesday, he fulfilled his dream.

Harvesting tomatoes in space

Earlier, on Tuesday, NASA said Al Neyadi harvested tomatoes, collecting them for both scientific analysis and crew consumption for the Veg-05 space botany study.

According to NASA, the Pick-and-Eat Salad-Crop Productivity, Nutritional Value, and Acceptability to Supplement the ISS Food System (Veg-05) investigation, is the next step in efforts to address the need for a continuous fresh-food production system in space. A healthy, nutritious diet is essential for long-duration exploration missions, which means that the typical pre-packaged astronaut diet may need to be supplemented by fresh foods during flight.

The Veggie Vegetable Production System (Veggie) has begun testing aboard the International Space Station to help meet this need, and leafy greens have successfully been grown in spaceflight. NASA said the research of Veg-05 expands crop variety to dwarf tomatoes and focuses on the impact of light quality and fertilizer on fruit production, microbial food safety, nutritional value, taste acceptability by the crew, and the overall behavioral health benefits of having plants and fresh food in space.

Settling in

In an earlier blog post, NASA gave an update about Al Neyadi and the other three members of the SpaceX Crew-6 who reached the ISS on March 3.

“The four newest crew members continue getting up to speed with life on orbit familiarising themselves with space station operations and systems,” said NASA.

“The foursome also spent Monday installing new space biology hardware, replacing electronic components, and updating emergency procedures for the expanded crew.”

The Crew Dragon Endeavour carrying Al Neyadi, along with NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg and Andrey Fedyaev of Roscosmos, had automatically docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing port at 10:40am UAE time on Friday.

The quartet joined the seven-member Crew-5 of Expedition 68 and will live and work aboard the orbital outpost for six months.

The newly-expanded ISS crew of 11 members kicked off a busy work week on Monday conducting a variety of research and visiting vehicle activities, said NASA.

Avoiding collision

NASA revealed that the orbital outpost manoeuvred out of the way of an Earth observation satellite early Monday.

“The docked ISS Progress 83 resupply ship fired its engines for just over six minutes slightly raising the station’s orbit to avoid the approaching satellite.”

According to NASA, the ISS will normally manoeuvre away from a space object if the chance of a collision exceeds 1 in 10,000.

The ISS will also manoeuvre itself to avoid debris by firing thrusters to raise the orbital altitude with a velocity increment of less than 1m/s. The ISS is expected to execute similar manoeuvres about once a month to maintain orbital altitude.

NASA said the new orbital trajectory of the ISS will not impact the upcoming departure of the Crew-5 mission.

Four Expedition 68 crew members of Crew-5 are getting ready to complete their mission and return to Earth.

read more

Handover by Crew-5

The orbiting crew will soon return to a seven-member status when four station residents finalise their mission that began last year.

Flight Engineers Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada of NASA, along with Koichi Wakata of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and Anna Kikina of Roscosmos, had launched to the station as the SpaceX Crew-5 mission on Oct. 5 joining the Expedition 68 crew one day later.

All four homebound crew members have begun their handover activities. They will enter the Crew Dragon Endurance, undock from the Harmony module’s forward port, then splash down off the coast of Florida on a soon-to-be-announced date, NASA said.

The next Dragon mission to the station will be the SpaceX CRS-27 resupply mission scheduled for March 14 at 8:30 p.m. EDT. The Dragon cargo craft will automatically dock about 24 hours later to the Harmony port vacated by the Crew Dragon Endurance when it undocks a few days earlier, NASA added.