Saudi, US astronauts splash down on return from space station | Space News

Rayyanah Barnawi of Saudi Arabia, a biomedical scientist in cancer research, has become the first Arab woman to be sent into orbit.

A private spaceflight carrying a group of two Saudi astronauts and two Americans — including the first Arab woman put into orbit — landed safely in the Gulf of Mexico after a research mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying the team parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, on Tuesday night after a 12-hour re-entry flight after 10 days in orbit.

The sensational event was streamed live by a joint webcast presented by SpaceX and the company behind the mission, Axiom Space.

The return to Earth ended a second space station mission, organized, equipped and trained entirely at private expense by Axiom, a seven-year-old Houston-based venture led by the former director Head of NASA’s ISS program.

The Axiom 2 . Crew led by retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, 63, who holds the US record for most time in orbit with 665 days in space during three long-term missions to the ISS, including 10 spacewalk. She is currently the director of manned spaceflight at Axiom.

“It was an extraordinary trip. We really enjoyed all of that,” Whitson told mission controllers shortly after the explosion.

The Ax-2’s designated pilot is John Shoffner, 67, a pilot, race car driver and investor from Alaska.

Completing the crew as mission specialists are the first two astronauts from Saudi Arabia to fly aboard a private spacecraft – Ali Alqarni, 31, fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force Saudi Arabia; and Rayyanah Barnawi, 34, a biomedical scientist who studies cancer stem cells.

Barnawi wipes his tears at the end of his experiment and prepares to leave the space station.

“Every story has an end and this is just the beginning of a new era for our country and region,” she said Monday.

Barnawi was the first woman from the Arab world ever to be launched into Earth orbit and the first Arab woman to fly into space.

In August 2022, Sara Sabry became the first Arab woman and first Egyptian to fly into space on a short suborbital trip run by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space tourism venture.

Alqarni and Barnawi’s ISS stays are also notable for their overlap with that of Sultan Alneyadi, an ISS Expedition-69 crew member from the United Arab Emirates, marking the first time three astronauts from the Arab world to the space station.

The Axiom 2 mission, which kicked off May 21, is the latest in a series of space explorations funded by private capital and wealthy passengers rather than taxpayer funding. as NASA seeks to expand commercial access to low Earth orbit.

Axiom, which sent its first four-member crew of astronauts to the ISS in April 2022, has also contracted with the US space agency to build the first commercial addition to the lab. on orbit.

California-based SpaceX, founded by Twitter owner and electric car maker Tesla CEO Elon Musk, provided the Falcon 9 rocket and crew capsule to bring Axiom’s team to and go from orbit as well as control the flight.

NASA provided the launch site at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and assumed responsibility for the Axiom crew during their time on the space station, which orbits Earth about 400 km (250 mi).

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