Riyadh, SPA: The Saudi Space Commission (SCC) has confirmed the Saudi astronauts' readiness for the mission on the International Space Station (ISS); the astronauts have completed a rigorous nine months of training for the flight, which is planned for launch in May 2023.
The SSC said that the two Saudi astronauts now entered the quarantine period, in preparation for the launch of the scientific mission into space.
The astronauts, Rayyannah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni, will conduct 14 pioneering scientific research experiments in the microgravity environment, including three educational awareness experiments, during their mission on ISS, which is part of the Kingdom’s astronaut programme announced last September as one of the strategic programmes of the commission.
The SSC also said that the astronauts underwent 12 days in simulated space conditions, during which time they carried out training related to the experiments that will be conducted on the mission: simulating the penetration of the Earth’s atmosphere and the accompanying effect of gravitational forces, rapid acceleration and the heavy pull of gravity on the human body. They trained on all the equipment and procedures necessary to complete the mission on ISS with Axiom Space and SpaceX at the National Space Training and Research Centre (NASTAR) -- one of the state-of-the-art flight simulator facilities in Pennsylvania, US.
The astronauts underwent training at the NASA Johnson Centre as part of the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) programme, which is designed to push people to the extremes and prepared this team for their AX-2 mission to the ISS with the objective of inspiring students and those interested in space science, highlighting the importance of research and describing the lives of astronauts and the role of integrative science in improving the quality of life on Earth.
Last September, the astronauts underwent training on expeditionary skills at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The training programme included instructing the astronauts on operational programmes and operations that would be required aboard the ISS. In addition to undergoing training programmes at the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and European Space Agency (ESA) in January and February, they also carried out space payload merging exercises in March 2023, training in weightlessness and floating practice, communication skills whilst in orbit, and learning about side effects during spaceflight.
The two astronauts expressed pride in representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in their first sustainable Human Space Flight (HSF) programme, thus contributing to realising the Kingdom's ambition in the field of space. Both astronauts stressed their enthusiasm and readiness to carry out this mission, as well as their pride and gratitude for being able to represent the Kingdom in this great mission.
Barnawi said she was happy and immensely proud to represent her homeland, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on this mission, the results of which will contribute to strengthening the Kingdom’s aspirations and the goals of Vision 2030 and serve humanity. She also said she feels a great responsibility for being the first Saudi female astronaut.
AlQarni also expressed pride in representing the Kingdom on this mission, stressing that ambition has no limits and that the Kingdom's goals in the field of space stem from the desire to serve humanity and highlight the role of science in various fields.
AlQarni said that the training programme enhanced their readiness to deal with any challenge they may face during the space mission and has helped them develop the skills necessary to succeed in this mission. He stressed that space skills require intensive and accurate training, not only to ensure the achievement of the mission's objectives, but also to ensure the safety of fellow astronauts.
The SSC had earlier launched the Astronauts Programme with the aim of qualifying experienced Saudi candidates to embark on space flights that participate in scientific experiments, international research and future space-related missions, all of which will reflect positively on the future of the industry and the Kingdom, whilst increasing the interest of graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and developing human capital by attracting talent and teaching it the necessary skills which will enhance the Kingdom’s role in developing the space sector, thus becoming an important part of the global community in space science research and investing in research in the service of humanity.