Saudi Arabia’s first female astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi and her colleague Ali Al Qarni will blast off to the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday, May 21.
Barnawi, a breast cancer researcher, along with F-16 fighter pilot Al Qarni, will be part of Axiom Space 2 mission, which will be blasting off no earlier than 5.37 p.m. (EDT time) on May 21, NASA said.
Astronaut Peggy Whiston and business pioneer and pilot John Shoffner will also be part of the Axiom Space 2 mission.
Al Qarni and Barnawi will be the first Saudis to visit the space station, and Barnawi will become the first Saudi woman to fly in space.
“Research has been my passion in life,” she said at a pre-launch news conference.
“I’m very happy and honored to be here today representing the government of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Space Commission as the first Saudi woman astronaut going to the International Space Station.
“This is a great opportunity for me to represent the country, to represent their dreams. … This is a dream come true for everyone.”
Liftoff atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is planned for 5:37 p.m. EST Sunday with a backup launch opportunity at 5:14 p.m. Monday.
During an eight-day stay, Whitson, Shoffner, Al Qarni and Barnawi plan to carry out 20 research projects, 14 of them developed by Saudi scientists, that range from human physiology and cell biology to technology development.