Rayyanah Barnawi becomes first Arab woman in space
An astronaut from Saudi Arabia made history as the first Arab woman in space.
Rayyanah Barnawi was part of the AX-2 space mission that took off Sunday from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Barnawi, a scientist specializing in cancer stem-cell research, was one of four astronauts all travelling towards the International Space Station (ISS) to conduct ground-breaking scientific research.
She was joined by another Saudi astronaut Ali AlQarni as the mission launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Crewmates will travel to and from the ISS in a SpaceX Dragon 2 capsule named Freedom.
The 12-day trip marks an important historical event for Saudi Arabia and Arab women as Barnawi becomes the first-ever female astronaut from Saudi Arabia to travel into space.
Upon arrival, the astronauts will be conducting 14 pioneering scientific experiments in microgravity, including the repercussions of space on human health and rain-seeding technology, which will contribute to increasing rainfall in many countries.
In collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education, educational experiments will be conducted aboard the ISS in real-time, with 12,000 students viewing from the country.
The aim is to inspire the future generation of scientists and aspiring astronauts and encourage more young women and girls to follow STEM careers.
‘Space research hovers over all of humanity, literally and figuratively. As such, it should include the voices and perspectives of a truly global community that involves not only a diversity of nations, but a diversity of people,’ said Barnawi.
‘I am honoured to represent Saudi Arabia’s growing contributions to this field and proud to be the first Saudi Arabian woman to go to space. I hope this mission will inspire girls from various backgrounds, who have not always had these opportunities, to embrace their talents and intellect, and to know they have a crucial role to play in advancing the human experience.’
Earlier this year, Sultan Al Neyadi from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) made history as the first Arab to undertake a spacewalk.
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