March 3 was a big day for rookie astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — it was his first day in orbit. But his off-Earth experience is about to become even more memorable.
On April 28, Al Neyadi is scheduled to perform a spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS). The 6.5-hour extravehicular activity (EVA) will be the first ever for an Arab astronaut, and it will make the UAE the 10th country with a spacewalking citizen.
During the EVA, Al Neyadi and crewmate Stephen Bowen of NASA will retrieve a piece of communications equipment called a Radio Frequency Group (RFG) unit that's due to be returned to Earth. The duo will also prepare the ISS for the installation of advanced solar arrays, which will occur on a future spacewalk.
"I am eagerly awaiting this historic moment, for which I have trained extensively at the Johnson Space Center. I am looking forward to represent my country and continue the exceptional journey started by generations of astronauts before me," Al Neyadi wrote on Twitter on April 6.
Al Neyadi spent more than 55 hours underwater at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, a full-size replica of the ISS submerged in a pool. Being underwater mimics weightlessness, making this aquatic lab the ideal training center for spacewalking astronauts.
The astronaut launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 2, 2023, as part of SpaceX's Crew-6 mission. He will remain aboard the ISS for six months as the UAE's first long-duration astronaut and second astronaut overall, performing an anticipated 19 experiments studying everything from back pain to plant biology.
"It is a great honour for me to be part of this historic mission, representing my country, the UAE, and to receive NASA's golden astronaut pin. I will wear this pin as a symbol of the commitment I made when I started on this journey," he wrote.