RIYADH: Saudi astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al-Qarni have arrived at the International Space Station, Al Ekhbariya reported on Monday.
Barnawi, a scientist who became the first Saudi woman to go into space, and Al-Qarni, a trained fighter pilot, traveled on the SpaceX Dragon capsule with astronaut Peggy Whitson and business pioneer and pilot John Shoffner.
They were welcomed by the seven astronauts already on board (three Russians, three Americans, and an Emirati).
“We are now living a dream that we did not expect to become a reality. This trip represents Saudis and the entire Arab world. It is also an opportunity to discover space,” Barnawi said on arrival at the station.
Al-Qarni, meanwhile, said the pair will carry out “scientific experiments that will benefit humanity” during their stay in space.
They aim to conduct 20 research projects. Among them are 14 projects developed by Saudi scientists, covering various areas such as human physiology, cell biology, and technology development.
“It was a lovely ride,” said mission commander Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who has made the voyage three times in the past, adding: “It was the softest docking I’ve ever felt.”
The Dragon spacecraft launched atop a SpaceX rocket on Sunday, kicking off the private Ax-2 mission.
The mission is the second fully private mission to visit the ISS following a first in April 2022.