Saudi Arabia said Thursday it will launch a training program with the goal of sending its own astronauts, including a woman, into space next year.
The kingdom is actively promoting science and technology as part of its wide-ranging Vision 2030 plan to overhaul its economy and reduce its dependency on oil.
The plan, championed by Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also calls for greater integration of women into the workforce of the conservative Muslim country. This comes days ahead of the anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s lifting of a long-standing ban on women to drive in 2018.
“The Saudi Astronaut Program, which is an integral part of the Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030, will send Saudi astronauts into space to help better serve humanity,” the Saudi Space Commission said in a statement.
“One of the astronauts will be a Saudi woman, whose mission to space will represent a historical first for the Kingdom.”
The first Arab or Muslim to travel to space was Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman, a half-brother of the crown prince and an air force pilot who was part of the seven-member crew of NASA’s Discovery mission in 1985. He later served as head of the Saudi Space Commission from 2018 until last year, when he was appointed an adviser to King Salman.
The neighbouring UAE in September announced their plans to launch its first lunar rover in November.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Aya Batrawy, File