Emirati astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi said on Wednesday that he would not have to fast during Ramadan during 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) aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket next month.
Neyadi, Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg from NASA and Andrey Fedyaev from Russia are scheduled to fly to the ISS on February 26 as members of the SpaceX Dragon Crew-6.
Asked at a Wednesday news conference how he would celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims usually fast from dawn to sunset, Neyadi said his situation was an exception.
“I’m in the … definition of a traveler and we can actually break up quickly,” Neyadi said. “It’s not mandatory.”
“Actually, fasting isn’t mandatory if… you don’t feel well,” he said.
“Therefore, anything that could jeopardize the mission, or possibly put crew members at risk, actually allows us to eat enough food.”
Neyadi will be the second citizen of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates to go into space.
In September 2019, Hazzaa al-Mansoori spent eight days on the ISS.
NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts were also asked at the Johnson Space Center on Wednesday whether any of the political tensions on Earth, such as in Ukraine, 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’re in space, it’s just one crew, one vehicle, and we all have the same goal.”
Fedyaev noted the “very long history” of space cooperation between Russia and the United States.
“The life of people in space on the International Space Station is really a very good example of how people should live on Earth,” said the Russian cosmonaut.
– Handover within five days –
NASA officials said they expect SpaceX Dragon Crew-6 members to have a five-day handover with the four Dragon Crew-5 members who have been on the ISS since October.
Also currently aboard the ISS are three astronauts whose return vehicle, a Soyuz crew capsule, was damaged by a small meteor impact in December.
Russia plans to send an empty spacecraft to the ISS on February 20 to bring home a trio – Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petelin and Sergei Prokopyev and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio.
The crew capsule of Soyuz MS-22 caused a coolant leak after a meteor impact.
The MS-22 flew Petelin, Prokopyev and Rubio to the ISS in September after launching 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 by a few more months.
Russia has been using aging but reliable Soyuz capsules to carry astronauts into space since the 1960s.
Since the beginning of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, space has remained a rare place for cooperation between Moscow and Washington.
The ISS was launched in 1998 during increased US-Russia cooperation after the Cold War “space race”.