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Saudi ArabiaSuccess Stories

The First Arab Woman Astronaut in Space

Translator: Bi’ Dünya Haber

Throughout history, humans have been unable to hide their fascination with space and have watched it with curiosity as an unattainable desire. They have envisioned the vehicles they use to travel to space as ships, likening it to an endless, vast, dark sea. Therefore, the first step on the moon opened a new era. From those days to the present, not only has the technology developed for space exploration, but also the number of people interested in this field has significantly increased.

However, as in many other fields, it was not possible to see equal representation of both genders in space missions. Until recently, women were a minority in this area. However, with the launch of the first Arab woman astronaut into space on May 22, 2023, we can say that we witnessed many milestones simultaneously.

Two Saudi astronauts will be sent to the International Space Station to join astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi from the United Arab Emirates. This historic space mission will accomplish many firsts, including the presence of the first Arab woman astronaut in space, the representation of two Arab countries in the orbiting space laboratory for the first time, and the collaboration of three Arab astronauts in a 400 km scientific mission.

These events mark a turning point in space history and also highlight the potential of the Middle East in the global space industry.

Who are the Saudi astronaut crew members? Where did they complete their training?

Alfaisal University
Alfaisal University

Rayyanah Barnawi (33) will go down in history as the first Arab Muslim woman astronaut to go to space. Barnawi holds a Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences from Alfaisal University in Riyadh. She completed her undergraduate studies in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Otago in New Zealand. Additionally, she is a research laboratory technician with nine years of experience in breast cancer and cancer stem cell research.

AlQarni, who graduated from the King Faisal Air Academy with a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace and Space Sciences, is a combat pilot and Air Force captain with 12 years of experience in flying fighter jets.

The Saudi astronauts received training at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston and at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. In addition to Barnawi and AlQarni, two more Saudi astronauts, Mariam Fardous and Ali Al Ghamdi, were trained for future space missions as part of the Saudi Human Spaceflight Program.

When is the launch for the journey?


Barnawi and her fellow countryman Ali AlQarni (31) embarked on their journey on May 22, Monday, at 01:37 according to the United Arab Emirates local time. They will be part of the Axiom Mission-2 (Ax-2) on board the Dragon Freedom capsule launched by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center. They will spend eight days in the orbiting space laboratory.

What tasks will they be responsible for at the International Space Station?

The Saudi astronauts will conduct studies that can help scientists and researchers find new ways to create suitable conditions for humans to explore space in microgravity. They will also perform three educational consciousness experiments through live broadcasts with 12,000 Saudi students.

The Saudi government believes that this space journey, which involves the participation of its own citizens in international endeavors, contributes to the Kingdom’s vision, and considers the training conducted for space-related missions as a milestone within the country.

Space Shuutle

Barnawi expressed her honor and happiness to represent the Saudi Arabian government and the Saudi Space Commission as the first Saudi woman astronaut to go to the International Space Station (ISS). She also stated that it is a source of pride for her to be part of the dreams and hopes of all the people in Saudi Arabia, as well as all women in her homeland and the region.

AlQarni expressed excitement about the mission’s purpose and representing Saudi Arabia on this journey. He said, “I am really looking forward to all the experiments we will conduct on the International Space Station.”

Rayyanah Barnawi
Rayyanah Barnawi

The significance of this mission for the Arab world?

The Saudi astronauts emphasized the presence of three Arab astronauts at the ISS, sending a strong inspirational message to the world about Arabs coming together and working for the betterment of humanity.

According to experts in the space industry, seeing the UAE and Saudi Arabia working together in space reflects the value of cooperation and partnerships in the region. This development is seen as a factor that will increase collective space ambitions in the region.

While 263 people from 20 countries have visited the ISS, Saudi Arabia will become the sixth country to have two national astronauts simultaneously working in the orbiting laboratory. Saudi Arabia’s second venture into space comes nearly 40 years after it sent the first Arab prince, Sultan bin Salman, to space in 1985.

In a time when space-related activities are intensifying worldwide, we observe an increase in the number of Muslim scientists in this field. We congratulate Barnawi for her work and achievements and hope to witness many more successful Muslim figures in space and related areas.

bi' dünya haber

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