Saudi astronauts al-Qarni, Barnawi complete training ahead of ISS space mission

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Saudi Astronauts Ali al-Qarni and Rayyanah Barnawi have completed their training and begun quarantining ahead of their mission to the International Space Station (ISS) this month, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said on Wednesday.

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The Kingdom’s first-ever astronauts – including the first Arab female in space – will conduct 20 experiments, including research into predicting and preventing cancer and a study into how to generate artificial rain in future human settlements on the Moon and Mars.

The two Saudis- members of the inaugural Saudi national astronaut program - will be part of the four-man crew Axiom-2 mission scheduled to leave on May 21 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The astronauts received training at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston in the US to simulate the environment of the ISS.

The Saudi Space Authority training program also included teaching the astronauts exploratory skills at the headquarters “SpaceX” in Hawthorne, California.

This mission represents a return to human spaceflight for Saudi Arabia – some 40 years after Saudi Arabia sent the first Arab, Prince Sultan bin Salman, to space in 1985 - and will make the Kingdom the first nation not part of the official International Space Station partnership to have two astronauts aboard the ISS at the same time.

While 263 people from 20 countries have visited the ISS, Saudi Arabia will become only the sixth nation to have two national astronauts simultaneously working aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Astronauts must quarantine before their flight into space in order to help prevent the contraction and spread of any illness, astronauts are held in isolation before they launch into space, according to the Kennedy Space Center website.

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