The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be sending its first-ever female astronaut to the International Space Station (iSS) later this year. Joining the AX-2 space mission, both Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni will be joining other astronauts on Axiom Space’s second all-private astronaut mission.
In a report by Arab News, the Saudi Press Agency said, “The step aims to empower Saudi capabilities in human spaceflight geared towards serving humanity and benefiting from the promising opportunities offered by the space industry.”
By going in this direction, the Kingdom hopes to also attract younger people to become more interested in STEM subjects as well as seek out talent from around the country.
With a plan to launch from the US, two other astronauts have also been included: Mariam Fardous and Ali AlGamdi. Bringing together two astronauts of the same nationality in the same mission, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the only countries in the world to accomplish this.
“Through this program, the Kingdom seeks to activate scientific innovations at the level of space sciences, enhance its ability to independently conduct its own research that will reflect positively on the future of the industry and the country, increase the interest of graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and develop human capital by attracting talents and the necessary skills”, the Saudi Gazette said.
Plans were made as far back as September 2022 when Axiom Space and Saudi Space Commission sat and worked together to accomplish this.
Saudi Arabia and The Progression of Women
In 1985, prince Sultan bin Salman Al Saud flew on the STS-51-G mission of the space shuttle Discovery and already made it to orbit. Prior to 2018, women were left far behind, with driving being one of many things impermissible for them to do. However, Saudi Arabian women have come a long way since then, with many of them now driving the Haramain Express Train between the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. The landscape of the Saudi workforce is forever evolving, with many progressive changes being made around gender equality and equal pay.
With a vision to train and qualify Saudis for scientific experiments, future human spaceflights and broader international research, this upcoming mission also aligns with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
Main Image Credit: NASA (Unsplash)
Juber Ahmed is our Digital Editor and travel enthusiast with a keen interest in Islamic history and heritage. He travels with his wife to various places around the world and writes about his experiences.
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