First Saudi Arabian female astronaut reaches International Space Station
A SpaceX capsule on Monday (May 22) carrying the first Saudi Arabian female astronaut, alongside three others, docked with the International Space Station (ISS) as part of an Axiom Space-chartered private mission.
The Dragon capsule, atop a Falcon rocket, took off from the Kennedy Space Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Sunday. It delivered the crew members of Axiom Mission 2 (AX-2) for a weeklong stay at the ISS.
Former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson pilots the AX-2 mission, which also includes paying customers pilot John Shoffner and mission specialists Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi from Saudi Arabia.
Barnawi, who is a cancer stem-cell researcher, is Saudi Arabia's first female astronaut, heading to the ISS to advance breast cancer research. Later, the crew will open the hatch to the orbiting space station, where they will conduct research and scientific experiments.
Barnawi said, "Greetings from outer space, I'm here not only representing myself but representing the hopes and dreams of everyone back home, everyone in the region."
"It was a great launch, a great ride, we had a lot of fun on the way up and we're really excited to get a lot of work done up here," he added.
Peggy Whitson, who is a former NASA astronaut who made the voyage three times in the past added said: "We really are excited to be here."
"It was a great launch, a great ride, we had a lot of fun on the way up and we're really excited to get a lot of work done up here."
On Sunday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, "Congratulations to Axiom, SpaceX, and the Axiom Mission 2 crew on a successful launch! During their time aboard the International Space Station, the Ax-2 astronauts will carry out more than 20 scientific experiments, helping us better understand space radiation, weather in low-gravity conditions, and more."
Nelson added, "This mission is more proof of NASA’s commitment to help our industry partners develop the next generation of space technology and support a growing commercial space economy."
Last April, SpaceX sent the first all-private astronaut team to the ISS, a journey heralded by industry executives and NASA as a watershed moment in the commercialisation of low-earth orbit.
This is the second wholly private mission to visit the space station, following the first in April 2022. Ax-2 members will stay for roughly 10 days and conduct approximately 20 experiments.
NASA is trying to seed a commercial space economy in the region of space known as "Low Earth Orbit," allowing it to focus its own energies on missions deeper into the solar system and beyond.
The SpaceX rocket took off from Florida on Sunday, and the journey to the International Space Station, which orbits roughly 250 miles (400 kilometres) above the earth, took about 16 hours.