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An Emirati astronaut, dubbed the 'Sultan of Space', said Thursday he was ready to spend the month of Ramadan on the International Space Station (ISS), highlighting the “challenge” of fasting in these conditions.
At 41, Sultan al-Neyadi will become the first astronaut from an Arab country to spend six months in space when he flies to the ISS on February 26 in aboard a SpaceX ship.
The United Arab Emirates, a wealthy Gulf country that entered the space race a few years ago, sent another of its nationals, Hazzaa al-Mansoori, into space in 2019 for an eight-day mission.
That of Sultan al-Neyadi in March will coincide with the holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims generally fast from dawn until sunset.
Observe this rule in the ISS, which “circles the earth in 90 minutes”, is a real “challenge”, explained Thursday the astronaut during a press conference in Dubai.
With “on average 16 sunrises and sunsets per day (…) when should you break the fast?”, he wondered, specifying however that the ISS used the GMT time zone.
After saying Wednesday in Houston, United States, that he was not required to fast during his mission, the astronaut said this time to “prepare for the holy month with the intention of fast”.
The Emirati served 20 years in the military, before studying electronics and communications engineering in the UK.
He also holds a doctorate in data leak prevention technology from Griffith University, Australia.
Chosen from more than 4,000 applicants, the astronaut said he wanted to study the effects microgravity on the human body in preparation for future missions to the Moon and Mars.
Six months in space “may seem like a long time, but I don't mind because the schedule is busy” , he said, saying he was “happy” to embark on this mission. He will be alongside Americans Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg as well as Russian Andrei Fediayev.
Sultan al-Neyadi said he would take “family photos” and perhaps “a few toys with him. belonging to his children.
“I will also take my jiu-jitsu outfit,” he added, emphasizing his “love” for this combat sport.
Asked about his ability to perform shots while floating in the ISS, he replied with a laugh: “We'll see how it goes.”