SpaceX launch for private mission to ISS will be joined by Saudi astronauts

SpaceX launch for private mission to ISS will be joined by Saudi astronauts

SpaceX launch for private mission to ISS will be joined by Saudi astronauts

Two Saudi astronauts, including the first Saudi, will fly from Florida on May 8 for a private mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Axiom Space and NASA officials announced Thursday.

Breast cancer researcher Rayyanah Barnawi will become the first Saudi woman to travel in space and will be joined in the mission by fellow Saudi fighter pilot Ali Al-Qarni.

Also on board will be Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who will make her fourth flight to the ISS, and John Shoffner, a Tennessee businessman who will serve as a pilot.

Liftoff for the Axiom 2 (Ax-2) mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for 10:43 p.m. EST May 8 (8:13 a.m. IST May 9) from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Axiom Space and NASA officials said during a briefing to preview the flight.

The four-member crew will travel to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule and spend 10 days aboard the orbiting space station.

The mission to the ISS will be the second from Axiom Space, a private space company.

Axiom Space flew its first private astronaut mission to the ISS in April 2022. Four astronauts spent 17 days in orbit as part of Ax-1.

The space mission involving a Saudi woman is the latest move by the kingdom to revamp its ultra-conservative image.

But this isn’t the oil-rich kingdom’s first foray into space.

In 1985, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, an Air Force pilot, took part in a space trip organized by the United States.

The neighboring United Arab Emirates have also taken part in space missions and an Emirati astronaut, Sultan al-Neyadi, arrived on the ISS a month ago for a six-month stay.

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