Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi could be joined by two Saudi colleagues during his stay on the International Space Station next year.
dr Al Neyadi, 41, a former IT professional from Al Ain, was selected for the milestone six-month mission in July.
It will be launched next spring on a Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket bound for the floating science lab as part of the Nasa/SpaceX Crew 6 mission. This will be the Arab world’s first long-term space mission.
Two yet-to-be-identified Saudis are scheduled to lift off in the second quarter of 2023 as part of the Ax-2 private crew mission for a two-week stay at the station, Reuters reported.
Axiom Space, a US-based space company, has helped both countries secure these voyages.
Historic achievement beckons
If things go as planned, the two Saudi astronauts would become the first from the kingdom to reach the ISS – 37 years after the nation launched the first Arab into space on Nasa’s space shuttle Discovery.
It will also be the first time that astronauts from two different Arab countries will be in space together, including the first Arab female astronaut from Saudi Arabia.
Michael Suffredini, President of Axiom Space, said Saudi Arabia’s mission will expand human spaceflight capabilities to a larger segment of the international community.
“Space belongs to all of humanity, which is one of the reasons Axiom Space is pleased to welcome our new partnership with the Saudi Space Commission to train and fly Saudi astronauts, including the first female Saudi astronaut,” he said in early this month when the announcement was made.
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman became the first Arab astronaut aboard the American space shuttle STS-51-G in 1985, but a long-term space program was not undertaken by the kingdom after that mission.
It was a landmark mission for the Arab and Islamic world, with photos showing Prince Sultan reading the Koran and praying aboard the space shuttle.
No other Arab astronaut reached space until 2019, when Maj Hazza Al Mansouri traveled to the ISS from the United Arab Emirates.
Maj Al Mansouri, a former fighter jet pilot, lived on the station for a week and conducted 16 scientific experiments.
He wore the kandura, a traditional Emirati dress, and for the first time gave a live tour of the train station in Arabic.
Now Dr. Al Neyadi for his trip to the ISS.
The UAE Astronaut Corps has four members so far, the other two being Mohammed Al Mulla and Nora Al Matrooshi, an astronaut.
Saudi Arabia announced the launch of its astronaut program on its national holiday on September 22, 2022.
Axiom Space has already completed the AX-1 mission, the space station’s first all-private crew.
The privately funded mission took off on April 8th and landed back on Earth on April 25th.
US trading companies are helping to provide access to space for countries that do not have launch capabilities.
Turkey also secured a mission for one of its citizens through Axiom, which is expected to launch late next year to coincide with the nation’s centenary.
This would be Turkey’s first astronaut in space.
The country launched its ambitious 10-year space plan in 2021, which includes exploration of the moon.
Updated: October 01, 2022 02:00 am