UAE’s Sultan Al Neyadi to be the first Arab astronaut to spend six months on ISS

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Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi will become the first Arab astronaut to be part of a long-term mission to the International Space Station (ISS) after he embarks on SpaceX’s Crew-6 mission scheduled for early 2023. During the mission, he will conduct scientific experiments as part of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) Astronaut Programme. According to the Emirates News Agency, this makes the UAE the 11th country in the world to participate in a long-term space mission.

Al Neyadi will embark on the mission as part of the agreement signed between Texas-based Axiom Space and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. But Al Neyadi is not the first Emirati to go aboard the International Space Station: that honour goes to Hazza Al Mansoori, who lived on the space station for eight days in 2019. Al Neyadi is expected to be onboard the ISS till September 2023.

Axiom Space was able to provide this opportunity to Al Neyadi as part of an agreement with NASA. NASA provided Axiom with a seat owned by the space agency on SpaceX’s upcoming Crew-6 mission in exchange for a seat on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that Axiom provided to NASA. That seat was used by American astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who returned to Earth after spending 355 days on the International Space Station. Since the seats were determined to be of equal value, Axiom said it won’t be exchanging any funds with NASA.

SpaceX’s Crew-6 will be the sixth crew rotation flight to the International Space Station aboard the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen will be the spacecraft commander for the mission and he will be joined by his colleague Woody Hoburg, who will serve as pilot. The Crew-6 mission is expected to launch in 2023 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

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