Who Is Sultan AlNeyadi? First Arab Astronaut To Fly To ISS For Long-Duration Mission

Sultan AlNeyadi, an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has been selected for a six-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS). AlNeyadi is set to become the first Arab astronaut to carry out a long-duration mission on the orbital laboratory.

On July 25, 2022, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president and prime minister of the UAE, made an announcement on Twitter in Arabic about AlNeyadi being chosen among a group of Emirati astronauts at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, the space agency of the UAE, for a six-month long mission on the ISS.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the UAE, took to Twitter to congratulate AlNeyadi for being selected as the first Arab astronaut to spend six months on the orbital laboratory. AlNeyadi will fly to the ISS as part of the SpaceX Crew-6 mission, slated to launch in early 2023. The president of the UAE wrote that this “historic milestone builds on the strong foundations of the UAE’s burgeoning space programme”.

AlNeyadi thanked His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and wrote that his selection as the first Arab astronaut for a long-duration mission is a great honour and responsibility that he accepts with a strong desire to raise the UAE flag high in space once more.

Hazza Al Mansouri and AlNeyadi were the first persons from the UAE to fly to space. They were launched to the orbital outpost aboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft on September 25, 2019, and spent eight days on the ISS.

AlNeyadi was a backup spaceflight participant during his short-duration mission to the orbital laboratory in 2019.

Agreement Between Axiom Space And Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre

In April 2022, Texas-based aerospace firm Axiom Space announced that it has signed a deal with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre to fly a UAE astronaut to the ISS, as part of SpaceX’s Crew-6 mission.

Agreement Between NASA And Axiom Space

NASA signed a contract in 2021 with Axiom Space to fly a NASA astronaut on a Soyuz rotation, in exchange for a seat on a future US commercial spacecraft, to ensure continuous US presence aboard the orbital outpost, the US space agency said on its website. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei was launched to the space station aboard a Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft in April 2021. On March 30, 2022, he returned to Earth, after spending a record 355 days in space.

In exchange for the Soyuz seat, NASA agreed to provide a seat on a US commercial spacecraft to a non-NASA astronaut designated by Axiom, as part of a space station crew rotation mission expected to launch in 2023. In April 2022, Axiom announced the agreement with Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre to fly its crew member in the seat on the US commercial spacecraft.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said that AlNeyadi will be an ambassador for all Arabs in the space race.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, said the UAE’s National Space Programme is based on the proactive vision of the country’s leadership aimed at foreseeing the future. He noted that the space programme will help boost the UAE’s regional and international stature in the space sector, according to a statement released by the UAE vice president’s office.

According to Salem Humaid Al Marri, Director-General of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, AlNeyadi completed intensive training courses as a substitute astronaut before his short-duration mission on the space station. It was the UAE’s first scientific mission to the space station. The slogan for the mission was ‘Zayed’s Ambition’.

All About AlNeyadi’s Personal Life, Education, And Astronaut Training

AlNeyadi, 41, was born in Umm Ghafa, 30 kilometres southeast of Al Ain, in Abu Dhabi. He received primary and secondary education in Abu Dhabi, excelling in academics. He decided to study Communications Engineering, according to the International Astronautical Federation.

AlNeyadi began his higher education in the UK, receiving a degree of  Bachelor of Science in Electronics and Communications Engineering from the University of Brighton in the UK.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he returned to the UAE and studied at Zayed Military College for a year. He worked as a network security engineer for the UAE Armed Forces, and visited more than 20 countries.  In 2008, he went to Australia to pursue a Master’s degree in Information and Networks Security from Griffith University.

AlNeyadi returned to Australia in 2012, and stayed there for five years. There, he completed his PhD in Data Leakage Prevention Technology. He has published six research papers on international websites.

More than 4,000 astronaut candidates had undergone a series of physical and mental tests in the UAE and abroad. From these candidates, AlNeyadi was selected for the UAE Astronaut Programme.

AlNeyadi practises Jujutsu, and this helped him be ahead of other candidates and successfully passed the UAE Astronaut Programme’s tests. In September 2018, he travelled to Russia as part of the agreement between the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre and Roscosmos to train Emirati astronauts. In Russia, AlNeyadi received the necessary training for his short-duration mission to the space station in 2019.

AlNeyadi has also received an astronaut badge from NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

AlNeyadi has undergone intensive preparation for the SpaceX Crew-6 mission at the Johnson Space Center.

What Will Be AlNeyadi’s Role During Crew-6 Mission?

AlNeyadi will spend six months aboard the orbital outpost as part of the SpaceX Crew-6 mission. He will conduct several in-depth and advanced scientific experiments as part of the UAE Astronaut Programme.

According to NASA, AlNeyadi will spend approximately six months aboard the ISS as part of Expeditions 68 and 69. He will serve as a mission specialist.

Other astronauts who will fly to the space station as part of the Crew-6 mission are NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrei Fedyaev. Bowen and Hoburg will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, for the Crew-6 mission.

AlNeyadi has received spacewalk training and onboard system training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and will continue crewmember training for the Crew Dragon spacecraft.