An Emirati astronaut, nicknamed the "Sultan of space", said Thursday he was ready to spend the month of Ramadan on the International Space Station (ISS), stressing the "challenge" of fasting under 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 aboard a SpaceX spacecraft.
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 will coincide in March with the holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims generally fast from dawn until sunset.
Observing 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 uses 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 fasting".
The Emirati served 20 years in the military, before studying electronics and communications engineering in the UK.
He also holds a PhD in Data Leakage Prevention Technology from Griffith University, Australia.
Chosen from more than 4,000 candidates, the astronaut said he wanted to study the effects of microgravity on the human body for future missions to the Moon and Mars.
Six months in space "may seem long, but that does not bother me because the program is loaded", he said, saying he was "happy" to embark on this mission. He will be alongside the Americans Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg as well as the Russian Andrei Fediaev.
Sultan al-Neyadi said he would take "family photos" and possibly "a few toys" belonging to his children with him.
"I will also take my jiu-jitsu outfit," he added, emphasizing his "love" for this combat sport.
Asked about his ability to take shots while floating in the ISS, he replied with a laugh: "We'll see how it goes."
02/02/2023 17:37:24 - Dubai (AFP) - © 2023 AFP