By: Michelle Liew
Saudi Arabia on Sunday announced that it will be sending the first female astronaut to the International Space Station in the second quarter of this year.
In a statement, the Saudi Space Commission announced that Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni will join the crew of the AX-2 space mission which aims to "strengthen the country's capabilities in human spaceflight and benefit from the opportunities offered by the space industry."
"The spaceflight is scheduled to launch from the United States to the International Space Station," according to the statement.
Saudi Arabia's Human Space Flight Program also trains two more astronauts, Mariam Fardous and Ali AlGamdi -- on all mission requirements.
The Gulf States have recently shown a keen interest in space exploration.
In December 2022, the Emirati space explorer Rashid Rover will depart for the moon on a Japanese spacecraft for a five-month journey.
In September last year, the Saudi Arabian Space Commission launched its astronaut program to qualify the country's cadres to fly into space in the short and long term and participate in scientific experiments, international research and space-related missions.