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Saudi astronauts, including the first Arab woman, are sent to the ISS by SpaceX

The first Arab woman astronaut has been transported to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a private rocket.

On Sunday’s mission, Saudi Arabian breast cancer researcher Rayyanah Barnawi was joined by fighter pilot Ali al-Qarni, a fellow Saudi.

The pair are the first Saudi astronauts to journey into space in decades.

At 5:37 p.m. local time (21:37 GMT), they launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who will be making her fourth flight to the ISS, and John Shoffner, a businessman from Tennessee who will be flying the ship, round out the group.

The four ought to arrive at the space station in their capsule on Monday morning and will spend a little more than seven days there prior to getting back with a splashdown off the bank of the southern US state of Florida.

“Hello from outer space! It feels amazing to be viewing Earth from this capsule,” Barnawi said after settling into orbit.

Barnawi had previously stated that it was “a great pleasure and honor” to be the first Saudi woman astronaut to go into space. She was sponsored by the Saudi government.

She said she was looking forward to sharing her experience with children while she was on the ISS, in addition to being excited about the research she will conduct there. “Being able to see their faces when they see astronauts from their own region for the first time is very thrilling,” she said.

A career fighter pilot, al-Qarni said he has “always had the passion of exploring the unknown and just admiring the sky and the stars”.

“It is a great opportunity for me to pursue this kind of passion that I have, and now maybe just fly among the stars,” he said.

Since a Saudi prince boarded the space shuttle Discovery in 1985, the pair is the nation’s first rocket riders. They will be greeted at the station by an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates due to a coincidental occurrence.

Axiom Space, based in Houston, is organizing the second private flight to the space station.

The first was made by three businessmen and a former NASA astronaut the previous year. The organization intends to begin adding its own rooms to the station in an additional few years, at last eliminating them to form a stand-alone outpost available for hire.

Maxim wouldn’t agree that the amount Saudi Arabia and Shoffner, the Tennessee businessman, are paying for the planned 10-day mission. The company had previously stated that each ticket would cost $55 million.

NASA is now open to space tourism, with two private missions planned each year after decades of avoiding it. For decades, the Russian Space Agency has been doing it on and off.

“Our job is to expand what we do in low-Earth orbit across the globe,” said NASA’s space station programme manager Joel Montalbano.

Eight minutes after liftoff, SpaceX’s first-stage booster returned to Cape Canaveral, providing the launch day crowd, which included approximately 60 Saudis, with a special treat.

Matt Ondler of Axiom stated, “It was a very, very exciting day.”

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