More than six decades after the first Arab went to space, the UAE has trained two pairs of homegrown astronauts as part of its surge in the space race. Saudi Arabia has also launched its own program to train professionals aspiring to work in the space industry. One of the UAE’s first two homegrown astronauts, Sultan Al Neyadi, is now set to become the first Arab to spend six months on the International Space Station. Neyadi, along with Hazza Al Mansouri, has also received training at NASA for operating robotic arms that handle the landing of goods at the space station. He has been selected to be a part of SpaceX’s Crew 6 mission and will embark on the journey into space in 2023. Neyadi will also be conducting scientific experiments at the ISS as part of the UAE Astronaut program. He has become part of the mission under an agreement between the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre and US-based firm Axiom Space, which also has a partnership with NASA. Before Neyadi, his fellow Emirati astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri had spent eight days aboard the ISS in 2019. Axiom provided the seat on SpaceX’s mission to Neyadi, which it had secured from NASA, in exchange for its own seat on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.
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Najla Al-Midfa on fueling innovation and entrepreneurial spirit