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Sultan Al Neyadi set to become first Arab astronaut to conduct spacewalk

The spacewalk – which Al Neyadi will do with NASA Flight Engineer Stephen Bowen - is set to last about six and a half hours.
Photo credit: Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed/Twitter

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre has announced that Sultan Al Neyadi will be the first Arab astronaut to undertake a spacewalk during Expedition 69 on the International Space Station (ISS) on 28th April. He will be part of the 262nd spacewalk in support of assembly, maintenance, and upgrades on the space station.

The UAE will become the 10th country to perform a spacewalk on the ISS.

Astronauts selected for spacewalks on the ISS undergo a rigorous selection process based on their skills, experience, and adaptability to the challenging environment of space.

Al Neyadi trained for more than 55 hours at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas in preparation for spacewalks. During his time at the NBL, AlNeyadi underwent nine runs of six hours each, training underwater simulating spacewalks utilising the full mock-up of the ISS.

Al Neyadi will venture outside of the International Space Station with NASA Flight Engineer Stephen Bowen for six and a half hours.

Since the International Space Station was launched in 1998, 259 astronauts have floated outside the station, and less than 700 spacewalks have been performed.

One of the primary objectives of the EVA will be to retrieve a crucial Radio Frequency Group (RFG) unit, which is an integral component of the ISS’s S-Band communications string. This essential piece of communications equipment will be returned to Earth on a SpaceX flight.

In addition to the primary task, Al Neyadi and his team will be working on a series of preparatory tasks related to the solar array installation EVAs planned for later in the mission.

Hamad Obaid AlMansoori, Chairman of MBRSC, said: “Sultan Al Neyadi’s historic spacewalk is a testament to the UAE’s unwavering dedication to advancing the frontiers of space exploration and fostering international cooperation. As the first Arab astronaut set to perform an EVA, Al Neyadi carries the aspirations of the entire region and symbolises the limitless possibilities of our collective achievements. This milestone is also an embodiment of our long-term vision to strengthen the UAE’s position as a global leader in space, science, and technology, as we continue to inspire future generations to pursue knowledge and innovation relentlessly.”

Salem Humaid AlMarri, Director General, MBRSC, stated: “As the first Arab astronaut set to perform a spacewalk, Sultan Al Neyadi’s milestone exemplifies our commitment to pioneering space exploration and contributing to the global space community. This remarkable event, taking place during the longest Arab space mission in history, not only signifies a remarkable achievement for the UAE and the region, but also highlights the continued international collaboration and scientific advancements on the ISS.”

Spacewalks, also known as Extravehicular Activity (EVA), on the ISS are crucial for maintaining, upgrading, and enhancing the orbiting laboratory’s capabilities. These spacewalks allow astronauts to perform tasks such as maintenance and repair of essential systems, installation of new technology and hardware, and assembly and construction of the ISS modules.