Saudi Arabia's First Female Astronaut to Make History on International Space Station
Saudi Arabia is preparing to make space history as it sends its first female astronaut, Rayyanah Barnawi, to the International Space Station.
Barnawi will be joined by fellow Saudi astronaut Ali AlQarni, as well as investor John Shoffner and decorated former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who will lead the mission.
The Ax-2 mission is the second private astronaut mission to the ISS after the successful Ax-1 mission in April 2022, which sent three paying customers and Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut, to the space station aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule. Like its predecessor, Ax-2 will also use SpaceX hardware and will be led by Peggy Whitson, who has spent more time in space than any other woman or American, with 665 days of spaceflight.
The historic mission will be watched closely by the world as Saudi Arabia continues to make strides in science and technology. In particular, the inclusion of Barnawi marks a significant step forward for the women of Saudi Arabia, who have historically enjoyed fewer rights than men. Women in the kingdom were not allowed to drive cars until 2018, making this mission a crucial moment for gender equality in the country.
The Saudi Press Agency notes that “human spaceflight is a symbol of countries’ superiority and global competitiveness in many fields such as technology, engineering, research, and innovation.” With the inclusion of two Saudi Arabian astronauts, the mission cements the country’s position among the few nations in the world that send two astronauts of the same nationality to the ISS simultaneously.
The Ax-2 mission is a significant milestone for Saudi Arabia. It is an opportunity to inspire young people in the country, especially women, to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The mission marks an exciting chapter in the nation’s history, as it continues to make strides towards technological advancement and make significant contributions to the field of space exploration.