Dubai: Saudi astronauts returned home after their groundbreaking mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al Qarni, accompanied by fellow astronauts Mariam Fardous and Ali Al Ghamdi, arrived on Friday.
Barnawi and Al Qarni had journeyed through space aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon vessel, descending back to Earth on May 31 after spending eight days on the ISS.
Their mission had been an incredible success, marked by their dedication to scientific exploration.
During their time in space, the Saudi astronauts conducted over 20 experiments and research projects, pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery. Their focus included nanomaterial therapeutic applications, with a special emphasis on areas like drug delivery, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine.
The astronaut duo also conducted three kite experiments involving 12,000 school students from 47 locations across Saudi Arabia. These real-time, interactive experiments bridged the distance between Earth and space, fostering a new generation of space enthusiasts and potential astronauts.
Accompanied by their colleagues, Fardous and Al Ghamdi, the astronauts were received with great honour. At King Khaled International Airport, they were greeted by Abdullah Al Swaha, Chairman of the Saudi Space Agency (SSA), Fayyad Al Ruwaili, Chief of General Staff, and Dr. Munir Al Desouki, President of the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.
Their mission marked several milestones for the Kingdom and the Arab world. Rayyanah Barnawi earned her place in history as the first Arab woman to undertake a space mission. Similarly, she and Al Qarni became the first Saudi astronauts to visit space in almost four decades, following the path of Prince Sultan bin Salman who had launched on NASA’s Space Shuttle in 1985.
The Kingdom has now joined an exclusive club, becoming the sixth nation to have two national astronauts simultaneously working aboard the ISS. A total of 263 individuals from 20 countries have had this privilege.
To commemorate this momentous occasion, the Saudi Space Commission was renamed and elevated to the status of an agency – the Saudi Space Agency (SSA) – a decision that was met with Cabinet approval.