Emirati astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi, who recently returned to the UAE after his long-haul space mission, opened up about a heartwarming experience that lifted his spirits while on the International Space Station (ISS). Speaking on the final day of the Arab Media Forum during a session titled 'From the Desert to the Stars,' AlNeyadi emphasised the crucial role of education and how it can lead to remarkable outcomes. He recounted a touching story about his mother, who sent him a heartfelt message in space.

AlNeyadi revealed, "My mother was illiterate, but she eventually studied the holy Quran by heart. I received a message from her (when I was in space). That was the most amazing thing… The letter said how proud she was, how proud the nation was of me. I was really touched by it." His mother's letter and the show of support had a powerful impact during his space journey.

During his session on Wednesday, the astronaut also emphasised the significance of endurance. He said, "I recall how my father, who didn't even go to college, taught me the value of perseverance. He taught me that we might face obstacles, but we must remain committed to overcoming them along our journey, which takes us closer to our goal."

When asked about his children's aspirations, the father of six responded with a playful tone, "One of them dreams of becoming a diver, another is set on becoming a footballer, and yet another aspires to be a mechanic," eliciting laughter from everyone present.

UAE in space

Talking about UAE's emergence as a major player among global heavyweights in the space sector and the rationale behind the country's selection for ambitious missions, the 43-year-old stated, "They don't want a person to eat and sleep there. They want someone to work on scientific research.

"So, when we started this expedition, we had already attained credibility. They wanted to give the mission to someone with merit. It started with Hazzaa's (AlMansoori) mission. Our leaders said this mission will continue. When they announced the space programme, I believed these expeditions would be recurring."

Expressing faith in the country's vision to make space a sustainable sector that bolsters the UAE's knowledge-based economy, AlNeyadi added,

"The leadership has set its sight even farther. They are planning a third and fourth opportunity. But for those opportunities, one must equip themselves."

A family in space

AlNeyadi also shared that innumerable scientific experiments and outreach videos kept him occupied during his space journey, and he now misses the quietness he enjoyed in the cosmos.

"I miss those moments. We worked with people of different religions and nations. We worked together for six months, so we were a family. Less than 600 people get to experience this."

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