United Arab Emirates astronaut will spend 6 months on the space station next year

United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi.
United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi. (Image credit: NASA)

Sultan AlNeyadi will be the first astronaut from an Arab nation to conduct a long-duration mission on the International Space Station.

The announcement, made Monday (July 25), will see the United Arab Emirates (UAE) astronaut fly to the orbiting lab on SpaceX's Crew-6 mission, which is expected to launch in 2023. His seat was arranged through a previously disclosed agreement with Axiom Space, a Texas-based aerospace company.

AlNeyadi thanked Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Twitter shortly after the UAE vice-president's Arabic-language announcement on the social network. "My selection as the first Arab astronaut for a long-duration mission is a great honor and responsibility that I accept with a strong desire to raise the UAE flag high in space once more," AlNeyadi wrote.

Related: Hazzaa AlMansoori: The 1st Emirati astronaut's space station mission in photos

AlNeyadi was alluding to the last time an Emirati astronaut went to the International Space Station; Hazza Al Mansoori traveled to the orbiting lab on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in the fall of 2019 and lived on the station for eight days. AlNeyadi's Crew-6 flight, by contrast, will be a full-duration mission of about six months in space.

AlNeyadi and AlMansoori were the first two astronauts selected by the UAE, a relative newcomer to spaceflight, in 2018. (Two more were selected in 2021.) The pair completed spaceflight training with NASA during AlMansoori's preparations for his short-duration mission in 2019, for which AlNeyadi served as backup.

Before becoming an astronaut, AlNeyadi, 41, was a network security engineer for the UAE Armed Forces and holds a Ph.D. in information technology, according to his International Astronomical Federation biography. Like other ISS-assigned astronauts, he has completed about two years of basic astronaut candidate training in spacewalks, survival training and other matters, according to the Arab Times.

In space, AlNeyadi will be tasked with doing "many in-depth and advanced scientific experiments as part of the UAE astronaut program," according to a press release from the UAE vice president's office.

AlNeyadi will join NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg; they will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, aboard Crew-6. A Roscosmos cosmonaut, Andrei Fedyaev, joined the crew this month following a seat swap deal between Russia's federal space agency and NASA to fly cosmonauts aboard private American vehicles, in exchange for U.S. Soyuz seats.

AlNeyadi's spot on Crew-6 also became available due to an Axiom Space exchange with NASA. The agency traded the Crew-6 slot for an Axiom seat on Soyuz that was filled by NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who returned to Earth in March after spending 355 days aboard the ISS, an American record.

Crew-6 will be the sixth operational astronaut mission that SpaceX flies to the ISS for NASA. 

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace