Making history - 3 Muslims prepare to board space station
The Arab and Muslim world is poised to celebrate a significant milestone — three Muslims astronauts will meet on board the International Space Station (ISS) in the coming months.
On Sunday, Sultan Al Neyadi from the UAE is scheduled to embark on a six-month mission on the orbiting science laboratory — the first Arab astronaut to take part in a long-duration space mission.
The Emirati will be accompanied by two Saudi astronauts in the spring, including the first woman from the Arab world to go to space — Rayyannah Barnawi.
She will spend a 10-day stint on the ISS with compatriot Ali Al Qarni, becoming the second and third Saudis to fly in space.
The first Muslim in space was Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman, who joined the crew of the shuttle Discovery in 1985.
Two years ago, the UAE announced Noura al-Matroushi as the UAE's first female astronaut.
Anousheh Raissyan, an Iranian-American entrepreneur from Dallas, was the first Muslim woman and Iranian in space when she travelled to the International Space Station in 2006. She reportedly paid $20million to travel there as a tourist.
Arab Space Co-operation Group
Dr. Sultan Al Neyadi, who studied at the University of Brighton, is set to join a NASA/SpaceX crew launching from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, USA.
The team will take off aboard a Falcon 9 rocket at 7:07am GMT on February 26th.
During his six-month stint, Dr Al Neyadi is expected to take part in approximately 20 experiments, covering areas such as human physiology, robotics, and carbon dioxide removal from sealed habitats.
At a NASA briefing, the 41-year-old said: "Just the idea of waking up every morning and having access to a window you can see and scan the whole world in 90 minutes is amazing."
The UAE and Saudi Arabia are part of the Arab Space Co-operation Group. Saudi named their astronauts just last week.
With over nine years of experience in cancer stem cell research, Barnawi was selected to conduct mission experiments aboard the ISS. She is a research laboratory specialist with nine years of experience in cancer stem cell research.
Al Qarni is an air force captain with 12 years of experience in fighter planes. He obtained his bachelor's degree in aeronautical sciences from the King Faisal Air Academy.
The backup astronauts for this mission includes another woman - Mariam Fardous.
“Through this programme, the kingdom seeks to activate scientific innovations at the level of space sciences, enhance its ability to independently conduct its own research that will reflect positively on the future of the industry and the country,” said Abdullah Bin Amer Al Swaha, chairman of the Saudi Space Commission.