Breaking Barriers: Saudi space mission to blast off this month

Breaking Barriers: Saudi space mission to blast off this month

Two Saudi astronauts - including the first Arab woman to go to space - are set to make history as they travel to the International Space Station
17 May 23
Axiom 2 Saudi Space Mission

As part of Axiom-2 mission, two Saudi Arabian astronauts are set to launch into space on Sunday, May 21.

Although an exciting adventure for the nation, this will also be a milestone moment for Saudi space travel as astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi, will become the very first Saudi (and Muslim) woman to launch into the stratosphere and beyond.

In this privately funded mission, Rayyanah Barnawi and fellow Saudi space explorer Ali Al-Qarni will join two other astronauts, and as a team the foursome will travel to the International Space Station (ISS).

Both Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al-Qarni will serve as Mission Specialists for the AX-2 mission to the ISS. Whilst Alaskan-born aviation specialist, John Shoffner will serve as Mission Pilot and with over 37 years experience, America’s most experienced astronaut, Peggy Whitson will act as Mission Commander for AX-2.

On Sunday May 21, the dual nationality team of Saudi and American nationals will blast off, and as of last week, the team entered into final quarantine ahead of the space flight. The shuttle is set to launch from the iconic 39A launchpad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

A back-up launch date of May 22 has also been secured should there be any last minute issues or hazardous weather conditions on May 21.

Image via Shutterstock

Over the course of ten days, the team will conduct approximately 14 scientific experiments in micro-gravity, as the mission continues to support the research and development of suitable and liveable conditions for further human space exploration.

Upholding Vision 2030, this mission continues to advance the Kingdom's global standing at the forefront of space exploration and scientific collaboration to support the advancement of Saudi and international knowledge of space and the potential for humans to thrive in a zero-gravity environment.

Image via Saudi Space Commission

It is expected that the AX-2 mission will lead to further knowledge, and technical and scientific advancements, and the mission is also an acknowledgement of Saudi's continued support in the development of future astronauts, engineers and pilots. Alongside this, there is also a significant educational aspect of the mission. The astronauts will engage with 12,000 Saudi students through live feeds, as they conduct three educational awareness experiments.

Through training programs, international research, and future space-related opportunities, the Saudi Space Commission and astronaut program aims to achieve the goals of Vision 2030.

This will be a historic moment for the nation and for the future advancement of international space travel.

At time of writing, AX-2 Launch Date is set as May 21, 2023.