Saudi Arabia has announced the identity of the first female astronaut it plans to send into space in the coming months.
In a statement released by the country’s official agency SPA, it was reported that the female astronaut, Reyyane Bernawi, will spend 10 days on the International Space Station (ISS) with her colleague Ali Al-Qarni.
The two astronauts will fly to the ISS in the spring as part of a space mission organized by the private space company Axiom Space.
Meanwhile, the astronauts will be carried by one of the Dragon capsules produced by Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX. Dragon capsules had previously undertaken the task of delivering many astronauts to the station.
In addition to the two Saudi astronauts, the spacecraft will carry former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and US businessman John Shoffner, who will be making their fourth flight to the ISS.
The crew will be launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a Falcon 9 rocket, also owned by SpaceX.
The French news agency AFP reported that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is pushing for reforms and trying to break the kingdom’s “rigid image”.
Under the crown prince, who took office in 2017, women were allowed to drive and travel abroad without a male escort.
The female labor force participation rate has also more than doubled since 2016, from 17 percent to 37 percent.
The mission will not be Saudi Arabia’s first foray into space.
Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, an air force pilot and Saudi royal prince, was the first Arab Muslim to go into space, joining a US-organized mission in 1985.
However, space studies in the country have recently accelerated.
The Saudi authorities, which established a space program in 2018, launched another program last year, taking action to send astronauts into space.