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Sky’s no limit for ambitions; Saudis in space


May 22, 2023
Sky’s no limit for ambitions;  Saudis in space


Saudi Gazette report

Cape Canaveral , In a historic moment, taking the dreams of all citizens to fly high on board, Saudi astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al Qarni have been launched into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The astronauts blasted off from the rocket aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral in the US state of Florida on Sunday, The launch of the private mission voyage to the International Space Station (ISS) was at 12:37 am The Dragon spacecraft will travel for 16 hours to the ISS, with arrival expected at 4:30 pm on Monday.

The space flight, organized by Axiom Space, was a great success when they took on board the dreams of their proud families, the entire nation and its excited people. This marks Saudi Arabia’s dispatch of its first nationals to foray into space in nearly four decades.

Barnawi and Al Qarni are expected to land at the ISS on Monday where they join fellow Arab astronaut, the UAE’s Sultan Al-Neyadi, currently on the ISS for a six-month mission. It will mark the first time astronauts from two Arab countries have met onboard ISS. Hours before the launch, Al-Neyadi sent a good-luck message to Barnawi and Al Qarni on Twitter.

Once docked, the Axiom Space astronauts plan to spend eight days aboard the orbiting laboratory, carrying out a full mission comprised of science, outreach and commercial activities. During their mission, Barnawi and Al Qarni 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.

Barnawi, the first female Arab astronaut and e breast cancer researcher, and fighter pilot Ali Al Qarni embarked on their flight to the ISS on a private mission to carry out a number of experiments. Arriving at the ISS, the duo were joined by Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut, and US pilot John Shoffner, on a mission organized by private space company Axiom Space.

Barnawi and Al Qarni were seen smiling and waving while heading to the Dragon spacecraft, prior to their launch of the space voyage. The astronauts said they are excited and proud to embark on the Saudi mission to outer space. Barnawi and Al Qarni met their families and greeted all those around before boarding the launch vehicle,

NASA began a live broadcast of the launch live on its website and social media channels at 12:30 am and confirmed that all the astronauts had donned their spacesuits ready for launch. The Dragon spacecraft hatch closed for flight at about midnight. The weather is set to be acceptable to the launch and was ready for lift-off at the scheduled time. At 10 minutes before launch, the final ‘go’ was given, with NASA saying: “Let Freedom fly.”

Abdullah Al-Sawha, minister of communications and IT and deputy head of the Supreme Space Council, and Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi ambassador to the United States, witnessed the launch of the space vehicle. from Kennedy Space Center,

About an hour before lift-off, a spokesman for the Saudi Space Commission said the historic space mission was just the start for the Kingdom’s ambitions into space.

“Being the first Saudi woman astronaut, representing the region, it’s a great pleasure and honor that I’m very happy to carry,” said Barnawi at a recent press conference. Barnawi added that, aside from excitement for the research she will carry out on board, she is looking forward to sharing her experience with the kids while on the ISS. “Being able to see their faces when they see astronauts from their own region for the first time is very thrilling,” she said.

As for Al Qarni, the mission is also a passion long realized. “It is a great opportunity for me to pursue this kind of passion that I have, and now … fly among the stars,” he said. A career fighter pilot, Al-Qarni said he has “always had the passion of exploring the unknown and just admiring the sky and the stars.” “It is a great opportunity for me to pursue this kind of passion that I have, and now maybe just fly among the stars.”

According to the Saudi Press Agency, the team will carry out 14 experiments focused on “human research, cell sciences, and cloud seeding experiments in the microgravity environment”. Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the mission is also to expand space science education in the Kingdom. Saudi male and female students will participate in scientific experiments conducted on the ISS.

The US space agency NASA, SpaceX, Axiom Space and the Saudi Space Commission confirmed, during a press conference in Orlando, Florida, earlier on Sunday that preparations for the AX-2 space mission have been completed as scheduled. Addressing the press conference, Eng. Mishaal Ashemimry, special advisor to CEO of the Saudi Space Commission, described the launch of the space flight as a historic moment for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and for the entire Arab region, saying that it represents a source of inspiration for the Saudi and Arab youth. She said that Saudi citizens throughout the Kingdom are excited about this scientific mission of their astronauts.

Saudi Arabia established the Saudi Space Commission in 2018 and launched a program last year to send astronauts into space. The four-member team is set to carry out some 20 experiments while on the ISS. One of them involves studying the behavior of stem cells in zero gravity. They will join seven others already on board the ISS: three Russians, three Americans and UAE astronaut Sultan Al-Neyadi, who was the first Arab national to go on a spacewalk last month.

The mission to the ISS will be the second in partnership with ISS-keyholder NASA by Axiom Space, a private space company, which offers the rare voyages for sums that run into the millions of dollars. It is noteworthy that the visit of the Saudi astronauts comes within the framework of the Kingdom’s program for astronauts, which aims to qualify experienced Saudi cadres for space flights, and to participate in conducting scientific experiments, international research and future missions related to the space sector. .


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