Mon 22 May 2023 2:08 pm - Jerusalem Time

Saudis proudly followed the "historic moment" of their citizens' launch into space

In a tent in the north of Riyadh, a large number of Saudis gathered after midnight last night to follow the "historic" moment of the launch of the first Saudis, including a woman, to the International Space Station.

Among the attendees, Saudi Jawaher Al-Sabhan with her five children, who were waving their country's flags, as the countdown began for the launch of the "Falcon 9" rocket produced by SpaceX, carrying Saudi astronauts Ali Al-Qarni and Rayana Barnawi, the first Saudi woman to launch into space.

Al-Sabhan, 34, who wore the traditional black veil, told AFP, "I love space and exploration in general, and I would love for my children to know the space and the details of its travels and the advantages of its exploration."

In the large, air-conditioned tent specially built for the occasion, Agha shouted.

Al-Sabhan added, "I loved that my children watch this historical moment, so that patriotic feelings grow in them," while her sons Moaz (11 years) and Afnan (9 years) wore the flag of their country.

"I feel proud and proud. I have indescribable feelings," she added excitedly.

The audience hung in front of a large screen, which showed a live broadcast of the launch ceremony of the special mission organized by the American company "Axiom Space", and many children were among the attendees.

As the countdown to launch ended, the announcer of the ceremony said, “Saudi Arabia is launching into space.” There were cheers and applause, as many were recording the rocket's ascent into space on their mobile phones.

Among them is the marketer Musaed Muhammad (32), who described it as "a big dream come true."

"This is a moment that reflects the future of a nation that wants to achieve the impossible," said the young man, who wore the traditional white dress, emotionally.
The space flight is part of the kingdom's conservative strategy to improve the country's image.

The kingdom established the Saudi Space Authority in 2018 and last year launched a program to send astronauts into space.
Saudi Arabia had sent one of its citizens into space in the past, as Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman, son of Saudi King Salman, participated in an American mission in 1985.

On Sunday night, Prince Sultan, the first Arab and Muslim to participate in a space flight, was the most prominent attendee at the gathering organized by the Saudi Space Authority.

"We are witnessing a historic moment," Prince Sultan told AFP.

He continued, "I reflect on my experience in space many years ago, and I am happy that Saudi Arabia has returned once again to space," and continued, "God willing, this is just the beginning."

Pictures of Barnawi and Al-Qarni, dressed as astronauts, graced billboards in Riyadh.

The crew of the space mission also includes Peggy Whitson, a former astronaut at the US Space Agency (NASA), who has gone to the International Station three times before and will lead the mission, and American businessman John Shoffner, who will lead the vehicle.

This crew will spend ten days aboard the International Space Station, which is expected to arrive on Monday around 13:30 GMT.

The four crew members are supposed to conduct about twenty tests during their stay, one of which is related to studying the behavior of stem cells in weightlessness.

Bernawi's launch into space reflects the great openness that Saudi society is witnessing, as women were not even allowed to drive cars even less than five years ago.

"It is a great pleasure and honor for me to be the first Saudi female astronaut," Bernawi, who studied science, told a press conference this week.

"It is a great opportunity to represent my country, to represent its dreams," she added.

A few minutes into the mission, Saudis were already widening the circle of their dreams.

"The next step is to ascend to the moon, God willing," said the Saudi youth, Abdullah Al-Otaibi, as he followed closely the details of the launch.


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Saudis proudly followed the "historic moment" of their citizens' launch into space