Two Saudi Arabians have made history by becoming the first people from their country to ever reside and operate aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Axiom Space, based in Houston, managed the Ax-2 project, which consisted of a four-person private expedition, and Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi were the two people that successfully launched to the orbiting lab on May 21.
Both of them are just the second and third Saudis to ever reach space, and Barnawi is the first Saudi woman to ever make it to space.
The pair are only the second and third Saudis to ever reach space.
After spending around eight days on board the International Space Station (ISS), AlQarni, Barnawi, and their two Ax-2 crewmates, record-breaking former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who will serve as the mission’s commander, and paying customer John Shoffner, will return to Earth in their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, which has been given the name Freedom.
The Ax-2 mission is significant for both the commercial spaceflight industry — it will be just the second private astronaut voyage to the International Space Station (ISS), following Axiom’s Ax-1 mission in April 2022 — and for Saudi Arabia, which intends to gain momentum from the experience and develop a larger presence away from Earth.
This week, Space.com had the opportunity to speak with Mishaal Ashemimry about the significance of Ax-2 to Saudi Arabia as well as the nation’s ambitions for a prosperous future in spaceflight. Ashemimry is an excellent choice for a conversation partner when it comes to the following subjects
She holds the positions of special adviser to the CEO of the Saudi Space Commission and vice president for diversity initiatives at the International Astronautical Federation. She is a Saudi-American aerospace engineer.