The International Space Station (ISS) is now home to the first Arab woman to go to space. Rayyanah Barnawi is one of two Saudis on the second private mission for Axiom Space, which took off Sunday from the US on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The 34-year-old biomedical scientist is set to spend 10 days in orbit on the ISS. During that time, she hopes to study stem cells and breast cancer.
She wants to give Middle Eastern women of all kinds hope.
In a movie shot in space before she got to the ISS, she told people everywhere, “The future is very bright. I want you to dream big, have faith in yourselves, and have faith in people.”
Ms. Barnawi is on Axiom Mission 2 with two Americans, commander Peggy Whitson and pilot John Shoffner, and a Saudi man, Ali Alqarni, who is the second male astronaut from the Gulf kingdom to go to space. Alqarni is a mission expert like Ms. Barnawi.
The crew went to space in SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which was on top of the Falcon 9 rocket that took off at 21:37 GMT on Sunday from Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Axiom Space tweeted that Dragon docked to the ISS on its own at 13:12 GMT on Monday.
During their time on the orbiting laboratory, the crew will do more than 20 science and technology tests. These experiments will look at things like how space affects human health and how to use technology to make it rain.
Ms. Barnawi’s experiments will be based on some of the work she has done as a study lab technician at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and study Centre in Riyadh over the past nine years.
She told reporters at a recent news conference that being the first Saudi woman to go to space was “a great pleasure and honour that I’m very happy to carry.”
She also said she was excited to talk to kids about what she was doing on the ISS through video chats.
“It’s very exciting to see the looks on their faces when they see astronauts from their own area for the first time.”
Mishaal Ashemimry, a Saudi-American aerospace expert and adviser to the Saudi Space Commission, said, “Our goals are to help all people through science.”
“We hope that girls from different backgrounds will be inspired by this mission to improve the human experience.”
Women in Saudi Arabia only got the right to drive in 2018, and human rights groups say that male guardianship rules still limit women’s rights there.