Dr Sultan Al Neyadi headshot

Brighton graduate blasts off for six-month mission on the International Space Station

Brighton graduate blasts off for six-month mission on the International Space Station
University of Brighton graduate Dr Sultan Al Neyadi will make history as the first Arab astronaut to take part in a long duration space mission on 26 February.

Dr Al Neyadi will be part of a NASA/SpaceX crew bound for a six-month stay on the International Space Station, blasting off on a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, USA.

Dr Al Neyadi, 41, said he “felt ready and excited” for the launch, scheduled for 07.07am GMT on Sunday 26 February. “Just the idea of waking up every morning and having access to a window you can see and scan the whole world in 90 minutes is amazing,” he said during a recent NASA media briefing.

Sultan came to the UK to study for an undergraduate degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering at the University of Brighton and graduated in 2004. Further studies took him back to his native United Arab Emirates where he earned a master’s degree in computer engineering, and later gained a doctorate in Australia.

Sultan’s big break came when he was selected as one of two people from 4,022 candidates to become the first Emirati astronauts, allowing him to enter the UAE Astronaut Programme at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai. Dr Al Neyadi has trained in Houston for the past three years, including a NASA course and mission-specific preparation.

Professor Debra Humphris, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Brighton, said: “This is a rare and wonderful achievement by Sultan, and one that reflects a huge amount of dedication and hard work. On behalf of everyone at the University of Brighton, we wish him the best of luck for his mission aboard the International Space Station. I’m incredibly proud to know that our university played an important role in his journey, and we look forward to hearing about his exploits when he returns.”

Marnie Middlemiss, Director of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement at the University of Brighton, said: “We take great pride in celebrating the achievements of all our graduates and how they translate their applied learning and knowledge into creating change and building their careers. We want to give huge congratulations to Sultan for being selected for this amazing mission to the International Space Station. He continues to be an inspiration to our students, past, present and future, and shows the Brighton Effect really can lead our graduates to the most incredible places.”

Life in orbit
For decades, crewed space missions have helped researchers to learn more about the effects of microgravity on the human body and mind, and Dr Al Neyadi is set to be involved in around 20 experiments during his time on the ISS, including experiments related to human physiology and robotics, as well as carbon dioxide removal from sealed habitats. “It’s going to be a busy schedule in terms of science and doing all sorts of cool stuff,” Dr Al Neyadi said. “We are subjects ourselves and we’ll have a lot of sensors on us when we do experiments, when we go to sleep.”

At his official NASA press conference, Dr Al Neyadi also revealed that he will observe the holy month of Ramadan while in space. The usual practice of fasting between sunrise and sunset will not of course be applicable in orbit around the Earth, but Sultan will have the status of being a traveller, which allows those fasting to avoid health risks while away from home. So, while observing Ramadan, he will be allowed to eat sufficient food without jeopardising the mission.

During his mission, Dr Al Neyadi will interact with school students around the globe. As well as offering guidance for anyone wishing to explore space, he will provide an example of how young people across the whole planet can dare to dream – how anyone can take a path through education where hard work and dedication can be channelled and focused into great achievement

Watch the launch
The launch broadcast will begin on NASA TV at 3:30am on Sunday 26 February and be carried on the agency’s website, as well as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitch, Daily Motion, Theta.TV, and NASA’s app.

Follow Dr Al Neyadi on Instagram: @astro_alneyadi.

SpaceX Crew portrait of Dr Sultan Al Neyadi, courtesy of NASA.

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