UAE astronaut Sultan Al-Neyadi has become the first Arab to undertake a spacewalk during Expedition 69 venturing out of the International Space Station (ISS) and completing his spacewalk.
The historic spacewalk lasted 7.01 hours in the vacuum of space on the starboard side of the ISS’s truss structure, accomplishing two key objectives.
One of the objectives of the Extra-vehicular Activity (EVA), undertaken by Al-Neyadi along with NASA Flight Engineer Stephen Bowen, was to work on a series of preparatory tasks which involved routing power cables, which was successfully concluded.
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These cable works were completed as a precursor to the installation of the Space Stations fourth roll-out solar array, known as the International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA), which is scheduled to be delivered on the upcoming SpaceX Dragon cargo mission. The next objective was to retrieve a crucial Radio Frequency Group (RFG) unit. This communications antenna, or RFG will stay bolted on the station for now due to the difficulty of removing it.
Elaborate process before embarking on the spacewalk
Prior to embarking on their spacewalk, Al-Neyadi and Bowen underwent a two-hour oxygen purge to eliminate nitrogen from their bodies.
Following this, Warren Hoburg and Frank Rubio assisted the astronauts in donning their spacesuits – a major operation in itself. It took both Al-Neyadi and Bowen an additional hour to put on their spacesuits and safety gear before entering the airlock to gradually reduce the pressure to a safe level for opening the exterior hatch.
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Prior to the spacewalk, a thorough set of checks were conducted to ensure the safety of the astronauts. During their high-altitude walk outside the ISS, Al-Neyadi and Bowen had to contend with two major challenges: radiation and extreme temperatures.
The surrounding environment in space can reach scorching temperatures of up to 120 degrees Celsius in the sunlight and drop as low as -150 degrees Celsius when the sun is out of sight.
While the spacesuit is geared to handle all this, careful management of the suit during the mission was also a task at hand.
UAE Mission 2 – a truly inspiring endeavour: Al-Mansoori, MBRSC
Hamad Obaid Al-Mansoori, Chairman, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), said, “The UAE Mission 2 is a truly inspiring endeavour that embodies the spirit of Emirati excellence and determination to achieve greatness in all our pursuits.”
The UAE's space program has achieved a new historic milestone with @astro_alneyadi becoming the first Arab to perform a spacewalk. We extend our congratulations to the UAE's leadership, its people, and the entire region for this remarkable accomplishment. We take great pride in… pic.twitter.com/g9T957I6gY
— Hamdan bin Mohammed (@HamdanMohammed) April 28, 2023
“From its inception as the longest Arab space mission to the historic appointment of the first Arab increment lead on an ISS expedition, and now continuing with the ground-breaking achievement of the first Arab spacewalk by Sultan Al-Neyadi, this mission has set a new standard for excellence in space exploration,” continued Al-Mansoori.
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Salem Humaid Al-Marri, Director General, MBRSC, said, “Sultan Al-Neyadi’s spacewalk has generated an unprecedented level of excitement and interest within the public, underscoring the immense significance of this mission.”
“While Sultan is conducting ground-breaking scientific experiments on the ISS, the addition of the spacewalk showcases yet another dimension of the UAE’s remarkable expertise in space exploration. This milestone achievement will play a critical role in restoring the International Space Station to its full operational capability, cementing the UAE’s position as a leading contributor to the global space community,” Al-Marri said.
UAE Astronaut Programme
Al-Neyadi will soon be completing two months in space after launching from Cape Canaveral in Florida with his Crew-6 team members on March 2. For his second month aboard the Space Station, Al-Neyadi conducted multiple experiments.
The UAE Astronaut Programme is one of the projects managed by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre under the UAE’s National Space Programme and funded by the ICT Fund of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority, which aims to support research and development in the ICT sector in the UAE and promote the country’s integration on the global stage.
(With agency inputs)