On Sunday 12th February 2023, Saudi Arabia announced that the kingdom would be sending the country’s first Saudi female astronaut, Rayyanah Barnawi and Saudi male astronaut, Ali al Qarni, to the International Space Center later this year.
The decision for the kingdom’s astronauts to be sent to space came in a bid to encourage and highlight the country’s capabilities within the space industry and the way in which it is developing, whilst also contributing to scientific research across divisions within the sector such as health, sustainability, and space technology.
Saudi astronauts, Barnawi and Al-Qarni will join the crew of the AX-2 space mission. The spaceflight is scheduled to launch from the USA to the International Space Station. In addition, the Saudi Human Spaceflight Program includes the training of two more astronauts Mariam Fardous and Ali Al-Ghamdi on all mission requirements.
The Chairman of the Saudi Space Commission, Abdullah Al-Swaha had conveyed that the Kingdom’s leadership is keen to support the space program magnanimously.
The program will help the Kingdom to activate scientific innovations within the field of space sciences, as well as enhance its ability to independently conduct its own research and increase the interest of graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and develop human capital.
Saudi Arabia’s space mission will be historic, as it will make the Kingdom one of the few countries in the world that is set to send two astronauts of the same nationality to the International Space Station at the same time.
The Saudi Space Commission’s program is being held in cooperation with a group of national entities, including the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Sport, the General Authority of Civil Aviation and King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, as well as international partners such as Axiom Space, which specializes in human spaceflights and the development of space infrastructure in the USA.
This spaceflight is a fundamental milestone of a program that aims to empower, train and qualify experienced Saudis to undertake space missions, conduct scientific experiments, participate in international research, and future space-related missions contributing to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.