Rayyanah Barnawi, the first Arab woman astronaut, is set to embark on a groundbreaking space mission as part of Saudi Arabia’s inaugural space expedition. According to reports from the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Barnawi will be joined by fellow Saudi astronaut Ali al-Qarni. Their journey will take them to the International Space Station (ISS) in a historic mission that will be launched from the United States.
Speaking at a pre-launch conference, Barnawi expressed her honor and happiness at representing the dreams and aspirations of the people of Saudi Arabia, as well as the hopes and dreams of women throughout the region.
Although the mission experienced some delays, NASA Space Operations confirmed earlier this month that it would launch no later than May 21. The astronauts are slated to conduct 14 groundbreaking scientific experiments in microgravity, aiming to develop new methods for enhancing space exploration.
Once the mission is successfully completed, Saudi Arabia will join a select group of nations that have sent two astronauts simultaneously to the ISS. The Kingdom’s astronaut program, initiated in September 2022, aligns with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aspirations to advance space research.
The program’s strategy includes future space missions, engagement in scientific research, international collaboration, and the establishment of top-notch educational and training programs. These efforts are aimed at preparing future astronauts and engineers for the challenges of space exploration.
Rayyanah Barnawi’s impressive career is highlighted in her biography by Axiom Space. Born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 1988, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences from Otago University in New Zealand and a Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences from Alfaisal University in Saudi Arabia. With almost a decade of expertise in studying cancer stem cells, Barnawi is a biomedical researcher. During her journey, she will focus on breast cancer and stem cell research.
Earlier this year, Sultan Al Neyadi from the UAE made history by becoming the first Arab astronaut to complete an extended trip to the ISS. While residing on board the space station, Al Neyadi will have the opportunity to meet Barnawi, Al-Qarni, and the other astronauts participating in the Ax-2 mission.
The upcoming space mission marks an important milestone for Saudi Arabia, as it ventures into the realm of space exploration and endeavors to contribute to scientific advancements on a global scale.