SpaceX sends Saudi astronauts, including first Arab woman, to ISS | Space News


Sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Rayyanah Barnawi, a breast most cancers researcher, is the primary Arab girl to go to area.

A personal rocket carrying the first Arab woman astronaut has blasted off on a mission to the Worldwide House Station (ISS).

Rayyanah Barnawi, a breast most cancers researcher from Saudi Arabia, was joined on Sunday’s mission by fellow Saudi Ali al-Qarni, a fighter pilot.

The pair are the primary Saudi astronauts to voyage into area in many years.

They took off on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy House Middle at Cape Canaveral within the southern United States at 5:37pm native time (21:37 GMT).

The group additionally contains Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who might be making her fourth flight to the ISS, and John Shoffner, a businessman from Tennessee who’s serving as pilot.

The 4 ought to attain the area station of their capsule on Monday morning and can spend simply over every week there earlier than returning house with a splashdown off the coast of the southern US state of Florida.

“Hi there from outer area! It feels wonderful to be viewing Earth from this capsule,” Barnawi mentioned after settling into orbit.

Sponsored by the Saudi authorities, Barnawi had mentioned earlier that it was “an awesome pleasure and honour” to be the primary Saudi girl astronaut to voyage into area.

Apart from pleasure for the analysis she’s going to perform on board, she mentioned she was trying ahead to sharing her expertise with kids whereas on the ISS. “Having the ability to see their faces after they see astronauts from their very own area for the primary time may be very thrilling,” she mentioned.

A profession fighter pilot, al-Qarni mentioned he has “at all times had the fervour of exploring the unknown and simply admiring the sky and the celebs”.

“It’s a nice alternative for me to pursue this type of ardour that I’ve, and now possibly simply fly among the many stars,” he mentioned.

The pair are the primary from their nation to trip a rocket since a Saudi prince travelled on board the area shuttle Discovery in 1985. In a quirk of timing, they are going to be greeted on the station by an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates.

The mission is the second personal flight to the area station organised by Houston-based Axiom House.

The primary was final yr by three businessmen, with one other retired NASA astronaut. The corporate plans to start out including its personal rooms to the station in one other few years, ultimately eradicating them to type a stand-alone outpost obtainable for rent.

Axiom wouldn’t say how a lot Saudi Arabia and Shoffner, the Tennessee businessman, are paying for the deliberate 10-day mission. The corporate had beforehand cited a ticket value of $55m every.

After many years of shunning area tourism, NASA now embraces it with two personal missions deliberate yearly. The Russian House Company has been doing it, on and off, for many years.

“Our job is to develop what we do in low-Earth orbit throughout the globe,” mentioned NASA’s area station programme supervisor Joel Montalbano.

SpaceX’s first-stage booster landed again at Cape Canaveral eight minutes after liftoff — a particular deal with for the launch day crowd, which included about 60 Saudis.

“It was a really, very thrilling day,” mentioned Axiom’s Matt Ondler.

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