The Arab world is buzzing with excitement as Saudi Arabia embarks on its historic space mission to the International Space Station (ISS), in line with the Kingdom's Vision 2030. The Saudi Space Agency released a video showcasing the anticipation and enthusiasm of the Saudi people, officials, and workers with the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying Saudi astronauts.
Saudi astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi became the first Arab female astronaut in space. She is accompanied by fellow astronaut Ali Alqarni, making Saudi Arabia one of the few countries to send astronauts of the same nationality on a space mission.
In another video showing the first microgravity experience of the Saudi astronauts, Barnawi greeted viewers from space, expressing her honour to be part of this historic journey. She thanked Saudi leadership for supporting the mission, as well as the Saudi Space Agency, NASA, the European and Japanese Space Agency for their training. She also expressed gratitude to her family, friends, and fellow Saudi astronauts for their support. Barnawi concluded by saying “with the grace of God and the leadership, we have now reached the sky's limit. All we have to do is work towards our dreams, and with Allah's will, we will succeed."
Astronaut Ali Alqarni conveyed his gratitude to the inspiring leadership for their support and empowerment of the country's youth. He added, "My family..I’m in space.”
He added: "In the near future, many more will join us, and we will see you soon in the International Space Station."
Sultan AlNeyadi, UAE astronaut, tweeted from the International Space Station as well.
“Just a few hours until we meet here..hours until the Emirati and Saudi flags meet together in space," he said, sharing his enthusiasm and excitement at the prospect of welcoming Peggy Whitson, John Shoffner, Ali Alqarni, and Rayyanah Barnawi.
Sarah Al Amiri, the Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, also gave her well wishes to the AX-2. She highlighted the historic significance of the mission, stating that Saudi Arabia is making its mark in history through this endeavor. She emphasized the nation's commitment to scientific advancement and the importance of space exploration for both the region and the world.
Rayyanah Barnawi is a research laboratory specialist with over nine years of experience in stem cell and tissue engineering programs. She has dedicated her professional life to improving research protocols, exploring various techniques, managing breast cancer research projects, and publishing numerous publications in the field. Her expertise in research and laboratories has prepared her to efficiently perform scientific experiments during the upcoming mission, serving her country and humanity in a zero-gravity environment.
Barnawi holds a master's degree in Biomedical Sciences with honours from AlFaisal University and a bachelor's degree in Reproduction and Genetic Engineering from the University of Otago.
Ali Alqarni, a Saudi astronaut and experienced pilot, joining the crew for the mission to the ISS. With a long professional career, Alqarni has undergone numerous courses in aviation and non-aviation-related fields, equipped with advanced skills in team management and data digitisation.
Alqarni has more than 12 years of experience in piloting (F-15 SA) aircraft. His rigorous training and exceptional abilities enable him to perform assigned tasks with utmost precision and efficiency. His competence and adherence to high standards make him well-suited for executing scientific experiments and following precise instructions during the upcoming mission.
In terms of his academic background, Alqarni holds a bachelor's degree in Aviation Sciences from King Faisal Air Academy and a diploma in Aviation Sciences from Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma. He has also completed specialized courses in the English language and aviation terminology.
Passionate about flying, Alqarni's enthusiasm led him to become an astronaut after the announcement of Saudi Arabia's National Space Program for astronauts.
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Despite long stint aboard the ISS, subsequent challenges in adapting to our planet's gravity after return, the 42-year-old remains ready for his next mission