Later this year, Saudi Arabia will launch its first female astronaut on a space mission. According to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Rayyana Barnawi will accompany Ali Al-Qarni on a 10-day voyage to the International Space Station (ISS). They will go there in a SpaceX Dragon as part of a mission by the private space business Axiom Space.
They will be joined by Tennessee-based businessman John Shoffner, who will act as pilot, and Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who will be making her fourth trip to the ISS.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will lift the astronauts into space from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. By doing this, Saudi Arabia is following in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates, which in 2019 became the first Arab nation to send a person into space.
This occurs at a time when Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has implemented numerous reforms to improve the country’s reputation for conservatism. Women will soon be able to drive and travel internationally unaccompanied.
This is Saudi Arabia’s second trip into space. The first Arab Muslim to enter space was Saudi royal Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz in 1985, when he took part in a mission run by the US.
Additionally, Saudi Arabia launched its space program in 2018. As part of Crown Prince Salman’s Vision 2030 plan for economic diversification, Saudi Arabia began another initiative in 2022 to send astronauts into space.
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