Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA Thursday, including the first person from the Arab world to go up for months.
The Falcon rocket blasted off from Kennedy Space Center just after midnight, lighting up the night sky as it headed for the East Coast.
Nearly 80 spectators from the United Arab Emirates watched from the launch site as astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi – only the second Emirati to fly into space – set off on his six-month mission.
Half a world away in Dubai and elsewhere across the UAE, schools and offices are broadcasting the launch live.
Also riding the Dragon capsule due to arrive at the space station Friday: NASA’s Stephen Bowen, a retired Navy diver who has logged three Space Shuttle flights, Warren “Woody” Hoburg, a former MIT research scientist and astronaut rookie, and Andrei Fedyaev, a rookie Retired cosmonaut of the Russian Air Force.
“Welcome to orbit,” he said over the SpaceX Launch Control radio, indicating that the liftoff occurred four years to the day after the capsule’s first orbital test flight. “If you enjoyed your trip, please don’t forget to give us five stars.”
The first attempt to launch it on Monday was called off At the last minute due to a clogged filter in the engine ignition system.
“It may have taken twice as long, but it was worth the trip,” Bowen said.
Thursday’s launch boosted the night sky already displaying a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, NASA’s chief of mission for Space Operations, Kathy Lueders, said. The two planets have appeared in tandem all week, and they seem to be getting ever closer.
“We added a bright new star to the night sky that night,” she told reporters.
The newcomers to the space station will replace the American, Russian and Japanese crew who have been there since October. The station’s other residents are two Russians and an American whose stay was doubled by six months, until September, after the Soyuz capsule leaked. The Soyuz replacement arrived last weekend.
Al Neyadi, a communications engineer, thanked everyone in Arabic and then English once they reached orbit. “The launch was incredible,” he said.
Served as a reserve position for the first Emirati astronautHazzaa Al Mansouri, who boarded a Russian rocket to the space station in 2019 for a week-long visit. The oil-rich consortium paid for the club’s seat on the SpaceX flight.
The UAE Minister of Public Education and Advanced Technology, Sarah Al Amiri, said the long stint “provides us with a new place for science and scientific discovery for the country.”
“We don’t want to go into space and then we don’t have much to do there or have no impact,” said Salem Al Marri, director general of the Emirates Space Center in Dubai.
The UAE already has a spacecraft orbiting Mars, and a small rover is flying to the moon on a Japanese lander. Two new astronauts from the United Arab Emirates train with NASA’s newest astronauts in Houston.
Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman was the first Arab to go into space, launched aboard the Discovery shuttle in 1985. He was followed two years later by Syrian astronaut Muhammad Faris, who was launched by Russia. Both have been in space for about a week.
Neyadi will be joined by two Saudi astronauts this spring who will go to the space station on a short, private SpaceX flight paid for by their government.
“It would be really exciting, really fun,” he said last week, to have three Arabs in space at once. “Our district is also hungry to learn more.”
He takes a lot of histories to share with his colleagues, especially during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that begins this month. As for the Ramadan fast in the ark, he said that fasting is not compulsory because it weakens it and endangers its message.
Bowen, the crew commander, said the four had successfully carried out their duties as a team despite differences between their countries. Even with tension over the war in Ukraine, the United States and Russia have continued to work together on the space station and commercial seats on flights there.
“It’s great to have the opportunity to fly with these guys,” Bowen said.
The Associated Press Health and Science section receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Education Media group. AP is solely responsible for all content.
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