Saudi Press

Saudi Arabia and the world
Saturday, Apr 20, 2024

Sky’s no limit for ambitions; Saudis in space

In a historic moment, taking the dreams of all Saudi citizens to fly high on board, astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al Qarni have been launched into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The astronauts blasted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, in the US state of Florida on Sunday at 12:37 a.m. The Dragon spacecraft will travel for 16 hours to the ISS, with arrival expected at 4:30 p.m. on Monday.

The astronauts took off on board the dreams of their proud families, the entire nation and its excited people, marking the first dispatch of Saudi nationals to foray into space in almost four decades.

Barnawi and Al Qarni are expected to join fellow Arab astronaut, the UAE’s Sultan Al-Neyadi, on ISS on Monday. It will mark the first time astronauts from two Arab countries meet onboard ISS. Hours before the launch, Al-Neyadi sent a good-luck message to Barnawi and Al Qarni on Twitter.

Once docked, the astronauts plan to spend eight days aboard the orbiting laboratory, carrying out a full mission comprised of science, outreach and commercial activities. During their mission, Barnawi and Al Qarni will conduct 20 experiments, including research into predicting and preventing cancer and a study into how to generate artificial rain in future human settlements on the Moon and Mars.

Barnawi, the first female Arab astronaut and a breast cancer researcher, and fighter pilot Ali Al Qarni embarked on their flight to the ISS on a private mission to carry out a number of experiments. The duo will be joined by Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut, and US pilot John Shoffner.

Barnawi and Al Qarni were seen smiling and waving while heading to the Dragon spacecraft, prior to the launch. The astronauts said they are excited and proud to embark on the Saudi mission to outer space. The duo met their families and greeted all those around before boarding the launch vehicle.

NASA began a live broadcast of the launch live on its website and social media channels at 12:30 a.m. and confirmed that all the astronauts had donned their spacesuits ready for launch. Dragon spacecraft hatch closed for flight at about midnight. At 10 minutes before the launch, the final ‘go’ was given, with NASA saying: “Let Freedom fly.”

Abdullah Al-Sawha, minister of communications and IT and deputy head of the Supreme Space Council, and Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi ambassador to United States, witnessed the launch from Kennedy Space Center.

About an hour before lift-off, a spokesman of the Saudi Space Commission said the historic space mission was just the start for the Kingdom’s ambitions into space.

"Being the first Saudi woman astronaut, representing the region, it's a great pleasure and honor that I'm very happy to carry," said Barnawi at a recent press conference. Barnawi added that, aside from excitement for the research she will carry out on board, she is looking forward to sharing her experience with kids while on the ISS. "Being able to see their faces when they see astronauts from their own region for the first time is very thrilling," she said.

As for Al Qarni, the mission is a passion long realized. “It is a great opportunity for me to pursue this kind of passion that I have, and now ... fly among the stars,” he said. A career fighter pilot, Al-Qarni said he has "always had the passion of exploring the unknown and just admiring the sky and the stars."

According to the Saudi Press Agency, the team will carry out 14 experiments focused on “human research, cell sciences, and cloud seeding experiments in the microgravity environment”. Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the mission is also to expand space science education in the Kingdom. Saudi male and female students will participate in scientific experiments conducted on the ISS.

The US space agency NASA, SpaceX, Axiom Space and the Saudi Space Commission confirmed, during a press conference in Orlando, Florida, earlier on Sunday that preparations for the AX-2 space mission were completed as scheduled. Addressing the press conference, Eng. Mishaal Ashemimry, special advisor to CEO of the Saudi Space Commission, described the launch of the space flight as a historic moment for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and for the entire Arab region, saying that it represents a source of inspiration for the Saudi and Arab youth. She said that Saudi citizens throughout the Kingdom are excited about this scientific mission of their astronauts.

Saudi Arabia established the Saudi Space Commission in 2018 and launched a program last year to send astronauts into space. The team is set to carry out some 20 experiments while on the ISS. One of them involves studying the behavior of stem cells in zero gravity. They will join seven others already on board the ISS: three Russians, three Americans and UAE astronaut Sultan Al-Neyadi, who was the first Arab national to go on a spacewalk last month.

The mission to the ISS will be the second in partnership with ISS-key holder NASA by Axiom Space, a private space company, which offers the rare voyages for sums that run into the millions of dollars. The voyage of the Saudi astronauts comes within the framework of the Kingdom’s program for astronauts, which aims to qualify experienced Saudi cadres for space flights, and to participate in conducting scientific experiments, international research and future missions related to the space sector.

Related Articles

Saudi Press
Reports in Gaza: 5 dead from the impact of aid packages dropped by the USA
Apple warns against drying iPhones with rice
China Criticizes US for Vetoing UN Ceasefire Resolution in Gaza
In a recent High Court hearing, the U.S. argued that Julian Assange endangered lives by releasing classified information.
The U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza, instead proposing its own six-week ceasefire plan contingent upon the release of all hostages held by Hamas
Prince William Urges End to Gaza Conflict
Saudi Arabia ranks first in UN index for e-government services in MENA
Israel has gone ‘beyond self-defence’ in Gaza, says Labour’s Streeting
EU Calls for Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza Conflict
Israel Records 20% Drop In GDP, War In Gaza Is The Reason
Saudi Arabia's FDI Inflows Grow with New International Standards
Venture Capitals Power Up Across MENA Region
Saudi Arabia Introduces Terms for 30-Year Income Tax Exemption for Multinational Companies
Saudi FM: Establishing Palestinian state is only pathway for Mideast stability
Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has died at the Arctic prison colony
Elon Musk's Starlink Gets License For Israel, Parts Of Gaza
Influencers Exploit X Platform for Profit Amidst Israel-Gaza Conflict
PM Modi Announces Opening Of New CBSE Office In Dubai
International Criminal Court's Chief "Deeply Concerned" By Rafah Bombing
January Funding for MENA Startups Totals $86.5 Million
Saudi Arabia accelerates digital economy growth through Nvidia partnership
Indian female military officers commend Saudi Arabia's progress and women's empowerment
Israel unveils tunnels underneath Gaza City headquarters of UN agency for Palestinian refugees
Israel deploys new military AI in Gaza war
Egypt threatens to suspend key peace treaty if Israel pushes into Gaza border town, officials say
Israel Utilizes AI Military Technology in Gaza Conflict
Saudi Arabia Warns Of A "Humanitarian Catastrophe" If Israel Moves On Rafah
China Warns Iran to Halt Houthi Attacks or Damage Trade Ties
US University To Shut Qatar Campus Due To "Heightened Mideast Instability"
Iran-backed hackers interrupt UAE TV streaming services with deepfake news
Facebook and Instagram Ban Iran's Supreme Leader
Finnish Airline, Finnair, is voluntarily weighing passengers to better estimate flight cargo weight
U.S. Secretary of State Blinken: The Israelis underwent dehumanization on 7.10, this does not give them the right to do this to others.
Defense Technology Showcase Held in Riyadh
Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports rise 2.5% to $6bn in November 2023: GASTAT
UK Bans Misleading "Zero Emissions" Claims for Electric Cars
Gaza's Teen Inventor Sparks Light in Displacement
Netanyahu Rejects Ceasefire Proposal, Insists On Total Victory Over Hamas
Guterres appoints independent UNRWA review panel
Private Sector Employment Hits Record High with Over 11 Million Employees in January
Rolls-Royce Executive Encourages Saudi Women to Tap into Their Inner 'Superhero' for Success in Defense Industry
Saudi Arabia launches National Academy of Vehicles and Cars
Saudi Tourism Minister Reveals Plan for 250,000 New Hotel Rooms by 2030
SAR to more than double eastern network passenger capacity with new trains deal
Saudi Arabia Enhances National Defense with New Partnerships
Saudi Aramco Maintains Arab Light Crude Pricing to Asia for March
NEOM Establishes New York Office to Support Investors
Saudi Wealth Fund Draws in Over $25 Billion Worth of Investments in Three Years, Al-Rumayyan Reveals
ZATCA Cautions Against Scammer Schemes
INTRA Defense Technologies inaugurates drone factory in Riyadh