United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi made history Friday, becoming the first astronaut from an Arab nation to perform a spacewalk outside the International Space Station.
AlNeyadi, along with NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen, is set to spend over six hours in the vacuum of space doing work on the ISS’s power generation system to prepare it for a new installation of solar panels.
“Counting down the hours until we pass through the ISS airlock into space,” AlNeyadi wrote earlier on Friday. “Wearing the spacesuit and proudly bearing the UAE flag on my arm, I will soon be undertaking the Arab world’s first spacewalk.”
Spacewalks allows astronauts to work on the ISS and make fixes to equipment without having to bring it back to Earth. Astronauts put on their suits several hours before a spacewalk to pressurize them, and the spacewalks themselves typically last between five and eight hours, according to NASA.
AlNeyadi, who has a background in engineering, has been at the ISS since early March, when he took part in a mission along with two NASA astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut. He is expected to be there until September, making it the UAE’s first long-term mission to space.