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Empowering Women in Space: Saudi Arabia's First Female Astronauts Prepare for Historic Journey to the ISS

Empowering Women in Space: Saudi Arabia's First Female Astronauts Prepare for Historic Journey to the ISS

First Female Saudi Arabs Astronaut

Rayyanah Barnawi, the first female Arab astronaut, is also on the mission.

In an unprecedented feat of human exploration, Saudi Arabia is poised to make history as it sends two remarkable individuals on a groundbreaking private mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Among the pioneers chosen for this extraordinary journey are Rayyanah Barnawi, the first female Arab astronaut and breast cancer researcher, and Ali al-Qarni, a distinguished fighter pilot. Organized by the private space company Axiom Space, the mission aims to conduct 14 crucial experiments focusing on human research, cell sciences, and cloud seeding in the microgravity environment.

The anticipation builds as Sunday approaches, the scheduled launch day from the iconic Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands ready to propel Rayyanah and Ali towards the ISS, where they will join forces with former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and US pilot John Shoffner. The mission is not only a testament to Saudi Arabia's commitment to space exploration but also a milestone in expanding space science education within the kingdom, as Saudi male and female students will participate in the scientific experiments conducted on the ISS.

First Female Saudi Arabs Astronaut

For Rayyanah Barnawi, this momentous occasion is imbued with pride and honor as she becomes the first Saudi woman astronaut to represent her region on such a historic mission. In a recent news conference, she expressed, "Being the first Saudi woman astronaut, representing the region, it's a great pleasure and honor that I'm very happy to carry."

Ali al-Qarni, the fighter pilot, shares her enthusiasm, recognizing the rare opportunity to pursue his lifelong passion amidst the stars. "It is a great opportunity for me to pursue this kind of passion that I have, and now... fly among the stars," he said.

Beyond the immense personal significance for these two astronauts, the mission aligns seamlessly with Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, a far-reaching reform program aimed at diversifying the nation's economy, reducing reliance on oil, and creating job opportunities for its young citizens. Venturing into space marks a strategic step forward in advancing the country's technological capabilities and contributing to global space exploration endeavors.

Saudi Arabia's connection to space science is not new; it traces back to 1985 when Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, an air force pilot, made history as the first Arab astronaut to participate in a US-organized space voyage. With this private mission, the kingdom seeks to strengthen its presence in the ever-evolving space sector and stimulate a passion for science and exploration among its youth.

The Middle East region has been steadily making strides in space exploration in recent years. In 2019, Hazzaa al-Mansoori from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) became the first Arab astronaut to reach the ISS, inspiring a generation of young Arabs to look to the skies and dream big. Last month, another UAE astronaut, Sultan al-Neyadi, achieved a historic milestone as the first Arab astronaut to undertake a spacewalk, showcasing the region's growing prowess in space missions.

As the ISS continues its tireless orbit around Earth, at speeds of approximately 28,000 km (17,400 miles) per hour since its inception in 1998, the imminent private mission by Saudi astronauts signifies another remarkable chapter in humanity's relentless quest to explore the cosmos. This significant leap into space promises to kindle the imagination of a new generation of Saudi youth, igniting a passion for space science and innovation. Additionally, the collaborative efforts with Axiom Space highlight the value of global cooperation in pushing the boundaries of human achievement.

As we eagerly await Sunday's launch, the world stands captivated by the forthcoming journey of these two Saudi astronauts. Their ascent into the celestial realm embodies the spirit of exploration, determination, and unity, reminding us all that the pursuit of knowledge and the yearning to reach for the stars are intrinsic to our shared human identity. The private mission to the ISS is set to leave an indelible mark on history, inspiring generations to come and propelling the spirit of discovery ever further into the cosmos.

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