SpaceX launched four astronauts into space on May 21 from Cape Canaveral. The Falcon-9 rocket with the Dragon spacecraft lifted off from Nasa’s Launch Complex 39A for the International Space Station (ISS). The spacecraft separated from the rocket nearly 12 minutes after the launch.
The Dragon spacecraft named Freedom carried the first Saudi woman into space, Rayyanah Barnawi, sponsored by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia along with Saudi’s Ali Alqarni, American Commander Peggy Whitson, and Pilot John Shoffner. Barnawi, a breast cancer researcher, is the first Arab woman to go to space. The Saudi pair is the first from their country to ride a rocket since a Saudi prince travelled on board the space shuttle Discovery in 1985. Interestingly, they will be greeted at the station by an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates.
The four astronauts reached the ISS in their capsule on the morning of May 22. They will spend just over a week there before returning home with a splashdown off the coast of the southern US state of Florida. The mission is the second private flight to the space station organised by Houston-based Axiom Space.