SAUDI ARABIA: Rayyanah Barnawi, a 34-year-old biomedical professional, is one of two Saudis on the second private mission from Axiom Space. She plans to do breast cancer and stem cell research during her 10 days in space, aiming to empower women in the Middle East.
Barnawi is joined on Axiom Mission 2 by two Americans, commander Peggy Whitson and pilot John Shoffner, as well as Saudi mission specialist Ali Alqarni, who is the second male astronaut from a Gulf nation to travel to space.
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was launched at 21:37 GMT on Sunday by the Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Barnawi urged people to have big dreams, have confidence in their abilities, and have faith in other people.
Dragon docked with the ISS at 13:12 GMT on Monday, and the crew will conduct over 20 research and technological experiments, including ones looking at the effects of space travel on human health and rain-seeding technology.
The studies conducted by Barnawi will be based in part on the work she has accomplished during her nine years working as a research lab technician at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center’s Stem Cell and Tissue Re-engineering Programme.
She described becoming the first female Saudi astronaut to travel to space as a “great pleasure and honour” and is looking forward to using video link-ups with kids to share her time on the ISS.
Mishaal Ashemimry, the Saudi Space Commission’s adviser and aerospace engineer, stated that their goals are to benefit all humanity through science. They are excited to meet astronauts from their region for the first time.
Ashemimry added, “In order to improve the human experience, we hope that this objective will inspire females from all backgrounds.”
Human rights organisations claim that male guardianship regulations in Saudi Arabia continue to restrict women’s rights despite the country only granting women the ability to drive in 2018.
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