Rayyanah Barnawi, the first Arab and Saudi woman to go on a space mission, is joined by fellow Saudi and crewmate Ali Al-Qarni
22 May 2023| Last updated on 23 May 2023
The space mission was sponsored by the Saudi government.
Marking a huge milestone in both the kingdom and the Arab world's leg in the space race, Saudi biomedical and stem-cell researcher Rayyanah Barnawi made history as the first-ever female Arab and Saudi astronaut to be sent on a space mission.
She and her crewmate Ali Al-Qarni, a fighter pilot for the Royal Saudi Air Force, will be the first people from KSA to visit the International Space Station (ISS).
Following a successful liftoff from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, both astronauts are expected to arrive at the orbiting lab on Monday May 22nd, 2023.
Their flight involved a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon capsule. The multi-million dollar space mission is joined by American crewmembers Peggy Whitson and Jeff Shoffner.
"Hello from outer space!"
After settling into orbit, Barnawi greeted the mission control centre on a livestream, "Hello from outer space! It feels amazing to be viewing Earth from this capsule."
She continued, "It feels amazing to be viewing Earth from this capsule. We're here feeling microgravity, thanks to our kingdom of Saudi Arabia and our leaders King Salman and the visionary Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman."
"A special thanks to my grandmother and my awesome family and friends. And to the people around the world: the future is very big. I want you to dream big and believe in yourselves and believe in humanity," the research scientist added.
Pictured: First Saudi Arabian and Arab female astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi | Image credit: Axiom Space.
Al-Qarni said, "As I look outside into space, I can’t help but think this is just the beginning of a great journey for all of us.
The four-member crew will spend a little over a week at the International Space Station, where they will conduct around 20 experiments during their mission. 14 of the experiments were assigned to Barnawi and Al-Qarni.
They will all then return to Earth with a splashdown near the coast of Florida, U.S.