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Rayyanah Barnawi makes history as Saudi Arabia’s first woman astronaut

Barnawi embarked on an eight-day mission as she was launched to the International Space Station on Monday morning.

Rayyanah Barnawi makes history as Saudi Arabia’s first woman astronaut
[Source photo: Axiom Space/Twitter | Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Monday was a monumental day in Saudi Arabia’s history as the nation achieved a significant milestone. In a groundbreaking moment, Saudi Arabia’s inaugural female astronaut embarked on her journey to space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The historic launch occurred at 1.37am UAE time, with the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida serving as the awe-inspiring launch site. This remarkable event not only showcases Saudi Arabia’s progress but also paves the way for greater gender equality and inspires women both within the kingdom and around the globe.

Rayyanah Barnawi, a breast cancer researcher, has been selected to join the privately led Axiom 2 mission, where she will journey to the International Space Station. Alongside her colleagues Ali Al Qarni, Peggy Whitson, and John Shoffner, they will orbit the Earth for an eight-day mission.

In addition to their mission, Rayyanah Barnawi and her colleagues will join Dr. Sultan Al Neyadi from the UAE, who is already aboard the International Space Station for a six-month science mission. Together, the astronauts have been assigned to conduct 14 experiments in the unique microgravity environment. Notably, even amidst the mission, Barnawi will diligently continue her research on stem cells and breast cancer, contributing to the advancements in these crucial fields.

“I never thought that I would ever be going to space, but at the same time, it feels like a dream come true. It’s an overwhelming feeling,” Barnawi said in a pre-launch video released by Axiom Space, the Houston company that helped to arrange the trip for Saudi Arabia. “It honestly feels like I am representing all Saudis’ ambitions, all females and all researchers as well. It’s a big honor to be able to go to space and at the same time do the things that you love the most.”

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