Saudi’s first woman astronaut to go to space this year

In a feat that supports the Kingdom's Vision 2030
Saudi’s first woman astronaut to go to space this year
Left to right: Saudi astronauts Mariam Fardous, Rayyanah Barnawi, Ali Al-Qarni and Ali Al-Ghamdi (Saudi Space Commission)

Saudi Arabia will send its first two astronauts, including its first female astronaut, to the International Space Station (ISS) in the second quarter of 2023, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

In a feat that supports the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, Saudi citizens Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali al-Qarni will join the crew of the AX-2 space mission. The space mission is scheduled to launch from the US to the ISS.

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The move aims to boost national capabilities in the field of human spaceflight and help the Kingdom benefit from the opportunities provided by the international space industry, SPA said. It also aims to “contribute to scientific research that serves the interests of humans in essential fields such as health, sustainability, and space technology.”

In addition to Barnawi and al-Qarni, astronauts Mariam Fardous and Ali al-Gamdi will also be trained on all the requirements of the mission that is part of the Saudi Space Commission’s spaceflight program.

The program is being carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Sports, the General Authority of Civil Aviation, and King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, in addition to international partners such as Axiom Space.

“This mission is also 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 International Space Station simultaneously,” the Saudi Space Commission’s CEO Dr. Mohammed Bin Saud al-Tamimi said.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia set up a space program and last year launched another to send astronauts into space, all part of Prince Salman’s Vision 2030 agenda for economic diversification.

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