Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi received a hero’s welcome yesterday after his return to the UAE following a historic Arab space mission and a successful splash down on Earth two weeks ago.
The UAE aircraft carrying Al Neyadi and members from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), touched the tarmac at Abu Dhabi airport at 5.30pm.
Seconds after he landed, several aircraft carriers displaying the colours of the UAE flag were launched across the airport skies in celebration of the astronaut’s return.
He was met with an emotional welcome by his family who waited impatiently outside the gate. They embraced him tightly as soon as he stepped out of the plane.
UAE President Shaikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Shaikh Moahmmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum greeted Al Neyadi and congratulated him for his successful space mission.
“I hope to see the UAE flag one day on mars and the moon,” the Emirati astronaut said while greeting the rulers.
Al Neyadi attended a Press conference following his touch down in Abu Dhabi. He spoke about his recovery after returning to Earth and thanked the UAE leadership for making his ‘childhood dream’ come true.
“I couldn’t stand on my feet immediately after returning to Earth due to getting used to the lack of gravity, but I gradually started to get used to gravity,” he said. “Thanks to the support of the (Emirati) leadership, my childhood dream of reaching space has come true. The (Emirati) leadership always facilitates our space efforts, and our next space mission requires training and planning.”
When asked about his plans for the coming days, Al Neyadi smiled and said he looks forward to spending some ‘quality time’ with his family and getting some much required sleep.
“From the start of the five-year preparations for the mission to spending over 180 days in space, this has been the experience of a lifetime. After returning to Earth, it’s time to come home. I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow in our beloved UAE,” Al Neyadi posted on X, formerly known as twitter, on Sunday.
He returned to Earth on September 4 after successfully completing a six-month mission on the International Space Station. The UAE astronaut and his crewmates onboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida after a 17-hour space journey.
People across the UAE impatiently waited for Al Neyadi’s return to Earth. Across the UAE, electronic billboards showed a countdown to the Emirati’s arrival, saying ‘Safe Journey, Sultan’.
Since his return two weeks ago, Al Neyadi has been in a recovery programme in Houston, Texas, to help him readapt to gravity.
Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre director general Salem Al Marri, posted on X on Sunday that the UAE space team was present in Houston with Al Neyadi as they prepared for his return home.