On Thursday 22nd September, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) announced that Saudi Arabia will send the first Saudi woman to space in 2023 as part of the Saudi Space Commission’s new space program. It will be a momentous occasion for the kingdom, as the new space program will send a Saudi crew to space for the first time in the country's history.
The Saudi Space Commission also announced the launch of its inaugural astronaut program, which will train and educate Saudi citizens to take part in long- and short-term space flights, scientific experiments, international research and future space-related missions.
The program falls in line with the goals laid out by Vision 2030 and comes under the National Space Strategy, and will become a platform for Saudi citizens to take up opportunities in the space sector and contribute to research that serves humanity.
With the UAE already having established itself as a global player in space-related matters, it sent the Arab world’s first mission to Mars through its Hope probe in 2021. Nora al-Matrooshi, from the UAE, is the first Arab woman to train to be an astronaut, although she has not yet ventured into space.
The astronaut program being launched by the Saudi Space Commission will be in collaboration with Axiom Space and the two are working together to send two Saudi astronauts to space next year. One of those astronauts will be the first Saudi woman to ever go to space on any missions.
Axiom Space President and CEO Michael Suffredini said in a statement, “Space belongs to all of humanity, which is one of the reasons Axiom Space is pleased to welcome our new partnership with the Saudi Space Commission to train and fly Saudi astronauts, including the first female Saudi astronaut.”
"It’s the people of Saudi Arabia that make me proud to be a Saudi woman, not to mention the culture and vibrant heritage of the kingdom," said Ghaliah Amin.#اليوم_الوطني_السعودي_92#SaudiNationalDay92— About Her (@AboutHerOFCL) September 23, 2022
It wouldn’t be the first time that a Saudi will go to space as Prince Sultan bin Salman Al Saud flew on the STS-51-G mission of the space shuttle Discovery in 1985 and became the first Saudi to go to space. With women’s rights in the kingdom having changed drastically within employment sectors across the board, it is now that they will finally pursue their dreams of becoming astronauts.
A trusted company, Axiom has already flown one private crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and has bigger plans to launch modules to the ISS in 2024. They hope that this hardware will detach and become a free-flying commercial space station, which will be operated by Axiom.