Vision 2030

Saudi Arabia to send first female astronaut to the International Space Station

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

Saudi nationals Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali al-Qarni will join the crew of the AX-2 space mission in an accomplishment that comes in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. The spaceflight is set to launch from the United States 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 at “contributing 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.

Eng. Abdullah Bin Amer al-Swaha, the Chairman of the Saudi Space Commission and Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology, said on Sunday that the Saudi leadership has given its full support to the program.

He added that through the program, the Kingdom seeks to strengthen its capabilities to independently conduct its own research, “increase the interest of graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and develop human capital by attracting talents and the necessary skills.”

For his part, the Saudi Space Commission’s CEO Dr. Mohammed Bin Saud al-Tamimi added that embarking on human spaceflights reflects countries’ “superiority and global competitiveness in many fields such as technology, engineering, research, and innovation.”

“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,” al-Tamimi said.

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