The second-ever private flight to the International Space Station (ISS), organized by Axiom Space, took off from the southern US state of Florida on Sunday, carrying the first two Saudi astronauts to travel to the orbiting laboratory.
Rayana Barnawi, a breast cancer researcher, is the first Saudi woman to travel to it space He is joined on the mission by Saudi citizen Ali Al-Qarni, a fighter pilot.
The Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) crew took off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral at 5:37 p.m. (2137 GMT).
The team also includes Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut, who will make her fourth trip to the International Space Station, and John Shoffner, a businessman from Tennessee, who is leading the flight.
“Thank you for your confidence in the Falcon 9 team,” SpaceX chief engineer Bill Gerstenmaier told the crew minutes after liftoff.
“I hope you enjoyed the trip to space. Have a great trip on the Dragon,” he added, referring to the spacecraft.
“Welcome home to Zero-G, Peggy.”
The crew is scheduled to spend about 10 days aboard the International Space Station, arriving around 9:25 a.m. (1325 GMT) on Monday.
“Being the first Saudi female astronaut to represent the region, it is a great pleasure and honor for me to carry it,” Bernawi said in a recent press conference.
She added that apart from the research she would be doing on board, she was looking forward to sharing her experience with the kids on the International Space Station.
“Being able to see their faces when they see astronauts from their region for the first time is very exciting,” she said.
Al-Qarni, who is a professional fighter pilot, said he had “always been passionate about exploring the unknown and just admiring the sky and the stars.”
“It’s a great opportunity for me to pursue the kind of passion that I have and maybe just now fly among the stars.”
Just the beginning
The mission is not Saudi Arabia’s first foray into space.
In 1985, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, a pilot in the Air Force, participated in a space flight organized by the United States.
“I think about my experience in space many years ago and I am happy that Saudi Arabia is back in space again,” he told AFP at a ceremony to observe the launch of the Ax-2 missile in Riyadh.
God willing, this is just the beginning.
the space mission The involvement of a Saudi woman is the latest step in the country, as women only gained the right to drive a few years ago, to renew their ultra-conservative image.
The oil-rich Gulf kingdom set up the Saudi Space Authority in 2018 and launched a program last year to send astronauts into space.
Dozens of flag-waving Saudis gathered at the launch party in Riyadh under a huge white tent to begin the countdown to the blast.
Jawaher Al-Sabhan, who attended the event with her 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter, said the moment gave her “indescribable feelings.”
“I love space and exploration in general, and I love knowing my kids about space and the benefits of exploring it,” she said.
The four-member team is scheduled to perform about 20 experiments while on the International Space Station.
One involves studying the behavior of stem cells in zero gravity.
They will join seven others already aboard the International Space Station: three Russians, three Americans, and Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, who last month became the first Arab citizen to make a spacewalk.
Ax-2 is Axiom Space’s second mission in partnership with NASA.
The private space company offers flights in the amount of millions of dollars.
Axiom Space also oversees the training of astronauts, rents their transportation, and manages their stay in space.
The company carried out its first private mission to the International Space Station in April 2022, sending three businessmen and former astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria into orbit for 17 days as part of Ax-1.
private satellite stations
For Axiom Space, these missions are a first step toward an ambitious goal: building its own space station, with the first module expected to launch in 2025.
The station will first be connected to the International Space Station before detaching and orbiting independently.
NASA plans to retire the International Space Station by 2030 and instead send astronauts to private stations, which will also host its customers, which has led to the US space agency encouraging the development of programs by several companies.
Russia recently agreed to extend its use of the International Space Station until 2028, after threatening to withdraw earlier last year as relations between the Kremlin and the West fray over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
© 2023 AFP
the quote: Special Mission Carries Saudi Astronauts Launches to International Space Station (2023, May 22) Retrieved May 22, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-private-mission-saudi-astronauts-iss- 1. html
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