Rayana Barnawi and Ali Al-Kharni will spend ten days aboard the ISS on a private mission organized by Axiom Space.
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This is the first. A private mission to the International Space Station (ISS) organized by American company Axiom Space took off on Sunday May 22, with the first two Saudi astronauts, a man and a woman, to go there.
Along with Rayana Barnawi and Ali Al-Kharni were two other crew members: Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who has already been to the ISS three times, American businessman John Shofner, who is acting as the mission commander and pilot.
The mission, named Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2), launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Four astronauts use the SpaceX Dragon capsule to reach the International Space Station, where they will arrive at 2:30 pm (Paris time) and stay for ten days.
The new space mission is part of a strategy to improve the image of Saudi Arabia, where women were not allowed to drive until a few years ago. “It is a great pleasure and honor to be Saudi Arabia’s first female astronaut and to represent the region.” Rayana Barnawi, a scientist by training, said during a press conference days before departure.
“Travel aficionado. Incurable bacon specialist. Tv evangelist. Wannabe internet enthusiast. Typical creator.”