RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will send the Kingdom’s first female astronaut and a male astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS) during the second quarter of 2023.
Astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni will join the crew of the AX-2 space mission, Axiom Space’s second all-private astronaut mission to the ISS.
“The step aims to empower Saudi capabilities in human spaceflight geared towards serving humanity and benefiting from the promising opportunities offered by the space industry”, the Saudi Press Agency said.
The spaceflight is scheduled to launch from the United States to the International Space Station. The Saudi Human Spaceflight Program includes the training of two more astronauts, Mariam Fardous and Ali AlGamdi, on all mission requirements.
Previously launched by the Saudi Space Commission (SSC), the Saudi Human Spaceflight Program is a collaboration with US company Axiom Space to train Saudi astronauts and bolster SSC’s space exploration.
The space mission is historic as it will make the Kingdom one of the few countries in the world that brings two astronauts of the same nationality aboard the ISS simultaneously.
Saudi Space Commission Chairman Abdullah Al-Swaha said the Kingdom’s leadership is keen to give unlimited support to the program, which aims to increase graduates’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and to nurture innovation in space sciences.
It also aims to improve the Kingdom’s capacity to conduct its own research, which will benefit the industry and the nation, and develop human capital by attracting skilled talents.
SSC CEO Mohammed Al-Tamimi expressed his gratitude to the Saudi leadership for supporting and empowering the commission, which has allowed the Kingdom to make significant strides in the space sector.
Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman, the first chairman of the Saudi Space Commission, owns the distinction of being the first Arab, Muslim and royal to fly into space.
A former Royal Saudi Air Force pilot, Prince Sultan flew aboard the American STS-51-G Space Shuttle mission as a payload specialist on June 17, 1985.