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RIYADH, Feb 12: Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday sending the first Saudi female astronaut and a Saudi male astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al-Qarni, to the International Space Station during the second quarter of 2023. In a statement, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said the Saudi Human Spaceflight Program includes the training of two more astronauts on all mission requirements (Mariam Fardous and Ali Al-Gamdi). The Chairman of the Saudi Space Commission, Abdullah Al-Swaha, noted that the Kingdom’s leadership is keen to give unlimited support to the space program. Through this program, the Kingdom seeks to activate scientific innovations at the level of space sciences, enhance its ability to independently conduct its own research that will reflect positively on the future of the industry and the country, increase the interest of graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and develop human capital by attracting talents and the necessary skills.
The goal of the Saudi mission is to empower national capabilities in human spaceflight geared towards serving humanity and benefiting from the promising opportunities offered by the space industry, as well as contributing to scientific research in many aspects such as health, sustainability, and space technology. The astronauts (Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al-Qarni) will join the crew of the AX-2 space mission. The spaceflight is scheduled to launch from the USA to the International Space Station. Meanwhile, , Mohammad Bin Saud Al-Tamimi, the CEO of the Saudi Space Commission, expressed his gratitude to the leadership for the support and empowerment to the commission, which has diminished the obstacles and challenges and enabled major leaps of the Kingdom into the space sector.
Human spaceflight is a symbol of 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.
The Saudi Space Commission also states that this program comes in cooperation with a group of entities, led by the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Sport, the General Authority of Civil Aviation and King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, in addition to international partners such as Axiom Space, which specializes in human spaceflights and the development of space infrastructure in the USA. It is also to be noted that the Saudi Space Commission had previously launched the Saudi Human Spaceflight Program.
This flight is an integral milestone of a comprehensive program aiming to train and qualify experienced Saudis to undertake human spaceflight, conduct scientific experiments, participate in international research, and future space-related missions contributing to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. (KUNA)