Saudi Arabia will send its first ever woman astronaut on a space mission later this year.
Rayyana Barnawi will join fellow Saudi male astronaut Ali Al-Qarni on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) during the second quarter of 2023, the official Saudi Press Agency said on February 12. The astronauts will join the crew of the AX-2 space mission and the space flight will launch from the USA, the agency added.
With the launch, Saudi Arabia will become the second Arab country after its neighbour the United Arab Emirates to send its citizens into space. In 2019, Emirati astronaut Hazzaa al-Mansoori spent eight days on the ISS. Another Emirati astronaut, Sultan al-Neyadi will make a voyage to space later this month. He will become the first Arab astronaut to spend six months in space when he takes off for the ISS aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
In 1985, Saudi royal Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, an air force pilot, became a part of a US-organised space mission, becoming the first Arab Muslim to travel into space. In 2018, Saudi Arabia set up a space programme, and last year launched another to send astronauts into space under the Vision 2030 agenda championed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for economic diversification.