SpaceX Private Mission: Axiom Space and NASA officials announced on Thursday that two Saudi astronauts, including the first Saudi woman, will launch from Florida on May 8 for a personal trip to the International Space Station (ISS).
Breast cancer researcher Rayyanah Barnawi will fly into space for the first time as a Saudi, and she will be accompanied by fighter pilot Ali Al-Qarni.
Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who will be making her fourth trip to the ISS, and Tennessee businessman John Shoffner, who will serve as the pilot, will both be on board.
In a meeting to discuss the trip, representatives from Axiom Space and NASA stated that the launch of Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is planned for 10:43 pm Eastern Time on May 8 (08:13 am IST on May 9) from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.
The four-person crew will spend 10 days on the ISS after arriving there in a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.
It will be the second trip to the ISS for the private space enterprise Axiom Space.
In April 2022, Axiom Space launched its first individual astronaut mission to the ISS. As part of Ax-1, four astronauts spent 17 days in orbit.
The Saudi Arabian woman’s participation in the space mission is the latest step the country has taken to shed its notoriously conservative reputation.
However, it is not the kingdom’s first venture into space.
A pilot with the air force named Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz participated in a space mission led by the US in 1985.
United Arab Emirates, which is close by, has also sent astronauts into space. Sultan al-Neyadi, an Emirati astronaut, just spent six months on the International Space Station.