The UAE's Sultan Al Neyadi is poised to float into the record books today as he prepares to become the first Arab astronaut to perform a spacewalk.
Dr Al Neyadi will spend about seven hours outside the International Space Station on a key maintenance assignment.
He will join an elite band of astronauts to have carried out the daring task – 260 spacewalks have taken place at the orbiting science laboratory since 1998.
Dr Al Neyadi will venture outside the ISS with Nasa colleague Stephen Bowen at about 5.15pm GST, an event that will be streamed live on Nasa's website.
The two men have several tasks assigned to them, including retrieving and relocating foot restraints that astronauts can use during future spacewalks, preparing a part of the station for a future solar array installation and retrieving a piece of communication hardware.
Salem Al Marri, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai, told The National that Dr Al Neyadi was selected by Nasa to perform the spacewalk.
“He’s been training since 2018, and training with Nasa since 2020, so he’s proven his capabilities,” he said.
“I’m very excited for him and he’s very happy. It’s quite historic and shows how far our space programme has gone.”
Dr Al Neyadi and Mr Bowen spent the last few days getting their Extravehicular Mobility Units, or spacesuits, ready for the spacewalk.
They will exit and re-enter from the Quest airlock – a pressurised module on the space station astronauts use for spacewalks.
It also provides an environment where astronauts can get rid of nitrogen from their bloodstream and avoid decompression sickness while they are in the low-pressure pure-oxygen atmosphere of the spacesuit.
The bulky spacesuits weigh about 127kg, but they do not feel the weight of it while in space.
Once Dr Al Neyadi and Mr Bowen are in their EMU suits, they will be attached to a tether, exit the airlock and then climb outside the structure to begin the repair work.
All of this while floating in microgravity more than 400km above the Earth, as the station travels at about 8km per second, completing an orbit of the planet in just 90 minutes.
This will be Mr Bowen's eighth spacewalk.
It will be the latest stellar achievement for Dr Al Neyadi, who is embarking on the Arab world's first long-duration space journey.
He arrived on the International Space Station on March 3 for the start of a six-month mission.