On Monday, a SpaceX capsule carrying two Saudi astronauts docked with the International Space Station as part of an Axiom Space-chartered private mission.
Rayyanah Barnawi, the first Saudi woman in space, and Ali Al-Qarni, a seasoned jet pilot, are the first two persons from their country to travel to the orbital outpost.
“Greetings from outer space, I’m here not only representing myself, but representing the hopes and dreams of everyone back home, everyone in the region,” said Barnawi.
“We really are excited to be here,” added mission commander Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who made the voyage three times in the past.
“It was a great launch, a great ride, we had a lot of fun on the way up and we’re really excited to get a lot of work done up here.”
John Shoffner, an American businessman, is the fourth crew member.
The quartet entered the ISS around two hours after docking, joining the seven astronauts already there (three Russians, three Americans, and an Emirati).
The SpaceX rocket took off from Florida on Sunday, and the journey to the International Space Station, which orbits roughly 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the Earth, took about 16 hours.
This is the second wholly private mission to visit the space station, following the first in April 2022. Ax-2 members will stay for roughly 10 days and conduct approximately 20 experiments.
NASA is attempting to establish a commercial space economy in the region of space known as “Low Earth Orbit,” allowing it to concentrate its efforts on missions deeper into the solar system and beyond.
The Axiom Mission 1 launched in April of last year, with seats for three private astronauts joining an Axiom-employed astronaut for $55 million apiece. The price of Ax-2 seats has not been published.
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