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Saudi Arabia to send two astronauts – a man and a woman – to ISS this year

The country will send the astronauts to boost its capabilities in human spaceflight.

Saudi Arabia to send two astronauts – a man and a woman – to ISS this year
[Source photo: Saudi Space Twitter/ Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

The Arab world has been making strides in the space race recently. With several countries investing in space technology and launching their satellites, the region is poised to play a significant role in the global space industry.

The competition among Arab nations to develop their space programs has led to a surge in innovation and investment in the sector, helping to advance the field and creating new opportunities for the region. The launch of the first Arab astronaut into space and the establishment of the Saudi Space Commission are notable milestones in the Arab world’s space journey.

Recently, Saudi Arabia announced it would send its first female astronaut, Rayyanah Barnawi, and a male astronaut, Ali AlQarni, to the International Space Station (ISS) in Q2 2023. They will join the crew of Axiom Space’s second all-private astronaut mission to the ISS. The mission aims to boost Saudi capabilities in human spaceflight and leverage the opportunities offered by the space industry.

The Saudi Human Spaceflight Program, a collaboration with US company Axiom Space, will train two more astronauts, Mariam Fardous and Ali AlGamdi, in all mission requirements. The program aims to increase interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and foster innovation in space sciences. It will also enhance the kingdom’s capacity to conduct research, attract skilled talent, and benefit the industry and the nation.

Abdullah Al-Swaha, Chairman of the Saudi Space Commission, stated that the kingdom’s leadership fully supports the program. The commission chief Mohammed Al-Tamimi expressed gratitude for the support, which has enabled the kingdom to make significant progress in the space sector.

The mission is also historic as it will make Saudi Arabia one of the few countries to simultaneously have two astronauts of the same nationality aboard the ISS. Prince Sultan bin Salman, the first chairman of the Saudi Space Commission and the first Arab, Muslim, and royal astronaut, flew into space aboard the American STS-51-G Space Shuttle mission in 1985.

As the nation continues to invest in its space programs, the Arab world will likely make even more significant contributions to the global space community in the coming years.

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