Saudi Arabia’s first national astronauts, Ali al-Qarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, are set to head to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of Axiom-2, the world’s second all-private astronaut mission, in May.
The two will be part of a four-man crew to conduct more than 20 experiments, including cloud seeding in microgravity to develop weather control technology for generating artificial rain in future human settlements on the Moon and Mars, researching stem cell production in microgravity and space tissue regeneration. The mission will also mark the first time two Saudi nationals will be aboard the ISS and the country’s return to human spaceflight after 40 years. The research conducted will impact the understanding of human physiology and establish the use of novel technologies for future human spaceflight missions.
In addition to the groundbreaking experiments being conducted by the Saudi Arabian astronauts, the Axiom-2 mission will also mark another important step towards the development of Axiom Station, the world’s first commercial space station and successor to the International Space Station.
Axiom Space, the Houston-based company behind the mission, aims to provide commercial access to space for research, exploration, and space tourism. With the retirement of the International Space Station in 2024, Axiom Station is expected to become the new hub for human activity in low-Earth orbit.
The company has already secured agreements with NASA for the first private astronaut mission to the ISS, and aims to begin construction of Axiom Station in 2022. The station will initially be attached to the ISS, but will eventually detach and become a free-flying space station.
The successful completion of the Axiom-2 mission and the continued development of Axiom Station represent major milestones in the commercialization of space, and the increasing participation of private companies and individuals in space exploration and research.
Furthermore, the participation of Saudi Arabian astronauts in the mission reflects the country’s growing interest and investment in the space sector. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has launched its own national space program, with plans to establish a space agency and launch satellites and other space missions.
The inclusion of a female astronaut, Rayyanah Barnawi, in the Axiom-2 mission is particularly noteworthy, as it represents a significant step towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in the traditionally male-dominated field of space exploration.
Overall, the Axiom-2 mission and the continued development of Axiom Station represent exciting new frontiers in space exploration and research, and the growing role of private companies and individuals in shaping the future of space travel and discovery.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Aya Batrawy, File