On Sunday, Saudi Arabia sent its first female astronaut to the International Space Station. Rayyanah Barnawi, a breast cancer researcher, along with Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut, Ali al-Qarni, a former Royal Saudi Air Force pilot, and John Shoffner, an American businessman, are all part of the second private mission in history to the space station organized by Houston-based Axiom Space.
The team plans to carry out about 20 experiments during their stay in space, including a study of the behavior of stem cells in zero gravity. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday and is scheduled to be around for just over a week.
Barnawi is the first Arab female astronaut to be sent to space by Saudi Arabia, making her country proud. They are the first from their country to travel on a rocket since a Saudi prince did so aboard the Discovery shuttle in 1985.
“It’s a dream come true for everyone,” Barnawi said before the flight. The mission represents a significant step forward for Saudi Arabia in terms of equality and women’s rights. It is an opportunity for women to demonstrate their knowledge and contribution to the scientific community. The hope is that it will inspire young girls in Saudi Arabia to pursue careers in STEM fields and help break down gender stereotypes.
Sending Barnawi, a breast cancer researcher, to space also raises awareness about the importance of breast cancer research and encourages investment in the field. Her mission is a giant leap for her, her country, and for women in science. It will undoubtedly inspire and encourage an entire generation of young women in Saudi Arabia and beyond.