A special mission to the International Space Station (ISS) organized by Axiom Space is scheduled to launch from Florida on Sunday, carrying the first two Saudi astronauts, heading to the orbiting laboratory.
Rayana Barnawi, a breast cancer researcher, will be the first Saudi woman to travel there space A Saudi fighter pilot, Ali al-Qarni, will join the mission.
The Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) crew will take off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, South Florida, at 5:37 p.m. (2137 GMT).
The team also includes Peggy Whitson, the former NASA astronaut who will make her fourth trip to the International Space Station, and John Shoffner, a businessman from Tennessee who will serve as pilot.
They are scheduled to spend about 10 days aboard the International Space Station, arriving around 1:30 p.m. 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 aside from the excitement of the research she will be doing on board, she is looking forward to sharing her experience with children while 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.”
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.
But the space mission Engaging a Saudi woman is the latest move by the oil-rich Gulf kingdom, where women only gained the right to drive a few years ago, to revamp its ultra-conservative image.
The kingdom established the Saudi Space Authority in 2018 and launched a program last year to send astronauts into space.
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 aboard the International Space Station: three Russians, three Americans and Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, who was the first Arab citizen to go on a spaceflight last month.
The mission to the International Space Station will be the second in a partnership with NASA that holds the key to the International Space Station by Axiom Space, a private space company offering rare flights in the millions of dollars.
The company oversees the training of astronauts, rents their transportation and ensures the smooth running of their stay.
Axiom Space carried out its first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station in April 2022, sending three businessmen and former astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria to spend 17 days in orbit as part of Ax-1.
Some astronauts on the International Space Station at the time said they had to take time out of their day—precious in weightlessness—to care for space tourists.
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 initially be attached 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.
Other international partners — Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency — have, like the United States, committed to continuing operations through 2030.
© 2023 AFP
the quote: A special mission carries the first Saudi astronauts to visit the International Space Station scheduled for launch (2023, May 21) Retrieved May 21, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-private-mission-saudi-astronauts-iss .html
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