Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday that it will be sending the first Saudi female astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi and a Saudi male astronaut Ali Al-Qarni to the International Space Station (ISS) during the second quarter of 2023. This historic mission aims to empower national capabilities in human spaceflight and contribute to scientific research in various fields such as health, sustainability, and space technology.
The astronauts Barnawi and Al-Qarni will join the crew of the AX-2 space mission, which is scheduled to launch from the USA to the ISS. The Saudi Human Spaceflight Program also includes the training of two more astronauts Mariam Fardous and Ali Al-Ghamdi on all mission requirements.
The Chairman of the Saudi Space Commission, Eng. Abdullah Al-Swaha, emphasized the Kingdom’s leadership’s commitment to supporting the space program. This program seeks to activate scientific innovations in the field of space sciences, enhance the Kingdom’s ability to conduct its own research, increase the interest of STEM graduates, and develop human capital.
The CEO of the Saudi Space Commission, Mohammed Al-Tamimi, expressed gratitude to the leadership for the support and empowerment to the commission, which has enabled major leaps into the space sector. The fact that Saudi Arabia is sending the female astronaut into space demonstrates the country’s dedication to breaking down gender barriers.
Human spaceflight is a symbol of a country’s superiority and competitiveness in various fields such as technology, engineering, research, and innovation. This mission will make Saudi Arabia one of the few countries in the world to simultaneously have two astronauts of the same nationality aboard the ISS.
The Saudi Space Commission stated that this program is in cooperation with a group of entities, including the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Sport, the General Authority of Civil Aviation and King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, as well as international partners such as Axiom Space, a company specializing in human spaceflights and space infrastructure development in the USA.
This flight is a milestone of the comprehensive Saudi Human Spaceflight Program, which aims to train and qualify experienced Saudis for future human spaceflight missions and contribute to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
Almost a year ago Sara Sabry made history in August 2022 as she became the first Egyptian and first Arab woman, as well as the first African woman, to fly into space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. Despite being under 30 years old, Sabry’s ground-breaking flight marked a significant milestone in the field of space exploration, as will Saudi Arabia’s latest announcement.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Aya Batrawy, File