The upcoming Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) is set to make history by sending two Saudi Arabian astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on a private mission.
The Ax-2 mission is set to launch on May 8, 2023, making history as the first time a Saudi and Arab woman voyages into space.
The two astronauts, Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al-Qarni, were selected from a pool of more than 130,000 applicants.
Barnawi is a breast cancer researcher, while Al-Qarni is a fighter pilot.
They will be accompanied by two American astronauts, Peggy Whitson and John Shoffner, who will be the commander and pilot, respectively.
The Ax-2 mission is a significant milestone for the Saudi space program, which was launched in 2018 with the establishment of the Saudi Space Agency.
The country has been investing heavily in space exploration and technology in recent years, with a goal of developing a domestic space industry and expanding its capabilities in the field.
The mission is being conducted in partnership with NASA, SpaceX, and Axiom Space, a private space exploration company.
The four-member crew will travel to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule and spend 10 days aboard the orbiting space station.
Barnawi’s selection for the mission is particularly noteworthy, as it makes her the first Saudi and Arab woman to travel into space.
Her expertise in breast cancer research also underscores the potential for space exploration to advance scientific research and medical discoveries.
In addition to the Ax-2 mission, Saudi Arabia has been involved in several other space-related initiatives in recent years.
In 2019, the country launched its first satellite, the SaudiSat-5A, which was designed to provide remote sensing and internet services.
The same year, the Saudi Space Commission signed an agreement with the UAE Space Agency to collaborate on space exploration and technology development.
The Saudi space program has also been focused on developing human capital and building partnerships with international organizations.
In 2019, the country launched the Space Scholarship Program, which aims to train and develop Saudi students in the field of space technology.
The program provides scholarships to students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in space-related fields at leading universities around the world.
The Saudi Space Agency has also signed agreements with several international organizations, including NASA, the European Space Agency, and the China National Space Administration, to collaborate on space exploration and technology development.
The UAE has also been making significant strides in the field of space exploration in recent years.
The country launched its first astronaut, Hazza Al-Mansouri, to the ISS in 2019, marking a major milestone for its space program.
In 2020, the UAE launched its first interplanetary mission, the Hope Mars Mission, which aims to study the atmosphere of Mars and provide new insights into the planet’s climate.
The Ax-2 mission and the broader Saudi space program reflect a growing interest in space exploration and technology development in the Middle East.
The region is home to several countries that have been investing in space-related initiatives, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.
As the Saudi space program continues to grow and expand its capabilities, it has the potential to contribute to scientific research, economic development, and national security.
The Ax-2 mission is just one step in this ongoing effort to build a domestic space industry and position Saudi Arabia as a leader in the field.