Saudi Arabia will send its first-ever woman astronaut on a space mission later this year, state media has reported, in the latest move to revamp the kingdom’s ultra-conservative image.
Rayyana Barnawi will join fellow Saudi male astro-naut Ali Al-Qarni on a mission to the International Space Station “during the second quarter of 2023”, the official Saudi Press Agency said.
It added that the astronauts “will join the crew of the AX-2 space mission” and the space flight will “launch from the US”.
Gulf monarchies have been seeking to diversify their energy-reliant economies through a plethora of projects.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has also been trying to shake off the kingdom’s austere image through a push for reforms.
Saudi Arabia’s foray into space is not the first, how-ever.
In 1985, Saudi royal Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, an air force pilot, took part in a US-organised space mission, becoming the first Arab Muslim to travel into space.
In 2018, Saudi Arabia set up a space programme and last year launched another to send astronauts into space.—AFP