Emirati astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi said on Wednesday that he will not be required to fast during Ramadan while on his upcoming space mission.
The 41-year-old will become the first Arab astronaut to spend six months in space when he departs for the International Space Station (ISS) next month on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
Neyadi, Steven Bowen and Warren Hoburg of NASA and Andrei Fedyaev of Russia are scheduled to fly to the ISS on February 26 as members of SpaceX Dragon Crew-6.
Asked at a press conference on Wednesday how he would observe the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims normally fast from dawn to dusk, Neyadi said his situation was an exception.
“I’m in the … definition of a passenger and we can actually hang up,” Nejadi said. “It is not mandatory.
“Actually, fasting is not obligatory if you are not feeling well,” he said.
“So in that regard, anything that could jeopardize the mission or possibly put the crew members at risk, we’re actually allowed to eat enough food.”
Neyadi will be the second citizen of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates to travel in space.
In September 2019, Hazza al-Mansour spent eight days on the ISS.
NASA astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut were also asked at the Johnson Space Center on Wednesday if any of the political tensions on Earth, such as over Ukraine, have spilled over into space.
“I’ve been working and training with astronauts for over 20 years and it’s always been amazing,” said NASA’s Bowen, a veteran of three space shuttle missions.
“Once you get to space, it’s just one crew, one vehicle, and we all have the same goal.
Fedyaev pointed to the “very long history” of space cooperation between Russia and the United States.
“The life of people in space on the International Space Station really sets a very good example of how people should live on Earth,” said the Russian cosmonaut.
– Five day lecture –
NASA officials said they expect members of SpaceX Dragon Crew-6 to have a five-day briefing with the four members of Dragon Crew-5, who have been on the ISS since October.
Also currently on the ISS are three astronauts whose reentry vehicle, a Soyuz crew capsule, was damaged by a small meteoroid impact in December.
Russia plans to send an empty spacecraft to the ISS on February 20 to bring home the trio — Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petelin and Sergey Prokopyev and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio.
Their Soyuz MS-22 crew capsule developed a radiator coolant leak after the meteoroid hit.
MS-22 flew Petelin, Prokopyev and Rubio to the ISS in September after liftoff from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
They were due to return home on the same spacecraft in March, but their stay on the ISS will now be extended for a few extra months.
Russia has been using the old but reliable Soyuz capsules to carry astronauts into space since the 1960s.
Space has remained a rare site of cooperation between Moscow and Washington since the start of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.
The ISS was launched in 1998 at a time of increased cooperation between the US and Russia following the Cold War “space race”.