The International Space Station (ISS) is a marvel of modern technology, a floating laboratory in space where astronauts conduct experiments, test new technologies, and push the boundaries of human knowledge. For the next six months, UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi will call the ISS his home, becoming the first Arab to go on a long-duration space mission.
Living aboard the ISS is a unique experience, one that requires astronauts to adapt to an entirely new way of life. In the microgravity environment of space, everything from eating and sleeping to using the toilet and tying a shoelace becomes a new challenge.
One of the most remarkable aspects of life on the ISS is the speed at which it orbits the Earth. Travelling at a speed of 28,000 kilometres per hour, the ISS completes one orbit of the Earth every 90 minutes, which means that Sultan AlNeyadi will experience 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets in a single day.
To cope with the rigours of life in space, astronauts on the ISS follow a carefully planned schedule that includes time for work, exercise, and rest. They sleep in small cabins equipped with sleeping bags that are tethered to the walls to prevent them from floating away in their sleep.
Meals are also an important part of life on the ISS, with astronauts dining on a variety of pre-packaged foods that have been specially prepared for consumption in space. To prevent food particles from floating around the cabin, meals are often eaten using a special device that suctions the food onto a fork or spoon.
Using the toilet in space is also a unique experience, as the microgravity environment makes it difficult to control bodily fluids. Astronauts must use a special device that sucks in waste and compresses it into a container, which is then disposed of during a spacewalk.
Despite the challenges of living in space, Sultan AlNeyadi is well prepared for his mission, having undergone rigorous training to ensure that he is ready for the demands of life on the ISS. His mission is an important milestone for the UAE, which has been making significant investments in its space programme in recent years.
In addition to conducting scientific experiments, Sultan AlNeyadi’s mission is also an opportunity to inspire young people across the UAE and the Arab world. His achievement is a testament to the power of hard work, dedication, and perseverance, and serves as a reminder that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.
From an altitude of 400km, Earth’s gravity at ISS is only about 90 percent of what it is on the planet’s surface, creating microgravity (or very small gravity), resulting in an apparent state of weightlessness. And that is what makes the ISS a unique laboratory environment.
AlNeyadi and his crew mates (Nasa mission commander Stephen Bowen, Nasa pilot Warren Hoburg and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev) will study the impact of microgravity and other space effects on many aspects of human lives. Their experiments will improve our knowledge of life and physical sciences, including health and medicine, biotechnology, vaccine development, chemical and physical processes, Earth observation, disaster relief, climate change monitoring, and more.