Saudi Arabia launched a scientific voyage to space carrying the first Saudi astronauts, Rayana Bernawi, and Ali Al-Qarni, from the International Space Station (ISS) in Cape Canaveral, Florida, the United States on Sunday evening.
This mission aims to conducting scientific and research experiments that can contribute to strengthening the Kingdom’s position globally in the field of space exploration, serving humanity, highlighting the role of Saudi research centers and affirming their efforts in making a scientific influence in this field.
During their trip, the two Saudi astronauts will undertake 14 research and scientific experiments in a microgravity environment, including three educational awareness experiments on the ISS. The experiments aim to conduct human research, cell sciences, and artificial cloud seeding experiments in a microgravity environment.
King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center (KFSH&RC), headed by Dr. Dr. Khalid Abu Khabar, with the participation of Dr. Wejdan Al-Ahmadi and Dr. Edward Hitti in cooperation with the Saudi Space Commission (SSC), will supervise the cell sciences experiment, how the inflammatory response changes in space, monitoring the resulting changes in the lifespan of the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) between space and Earth and simulating the inflammatory response to drug therapy using an immune cell model.
King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, headed by Dr. Ashraf Farahat, and in cooperation with the SSC as well, will supervise the cloud seeding experiment in microgravity, which aims to simulate the process used in the Kingdom and many countries to increase precipitation rates.
The cloud seeding experiment will help scientists and researchers devise new methods to provide suitable conditions for humans – including the work of artificial rain – to live in space colonies on the surface of the Moon and Mars. The experiment will also contribute to improving researchers’ understanding of cloud seeding technology, which will contribute to increasing rainfall rates in many countries.
For its part, Saudi’s Nebula Research and Development, led by Dr. Bader Shirah, in cooperation with the SSC, will conduct six experiments in the field of human research to learn about human adaptation to spaceflight and its safety on the brain and to understand the effects that occur on human health while in space. During these experiments, the functions of human organs and vital systems will be tested in microgravity such as measuring blood flow to the brain, assessing intracranial pressure and electrical activity of the brain, and monitoring changes in the optic nerve; which helps make spaceflights safer for humans in the future.
Moreover, experiments will include taking blood and biological samples to examine the vital signs associated with spaceflights, and mapping changes in the length, structure, and epigenetics of genes.
The Kingdom’s male and female students will participate in scientific experiments aboard the ISS, to enhance cognitive awareness of space science and its contribution to improving the quality of life on Earth, by comparing their experiences on Earth with those conducted by the Saudi crew aboard the ISS, which ensures instantaneous interaction.
Students will be able to communicate with the Saudi astronauts directly by conducting their experiments together, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity “Mawhiba”, Riyadh schools, and Misk schools.
The mission is part of the Kingdom’s astronauts’ program, which is one of the programs that aims, in its first phase, to send two Saudi astronauts, a male and female, on a manned spaceflight to the ISS, at an altitude of approximately (420 km) above the Earth’s surface.
The program is expected to contribute to consolidating the Kingdom’s position and place it among the leading countries; inspiring future generations regarding space technologies and their importance; promoting scientific research in various fields of space, and strengthening national partnerships and cooperation with relevant authorities.
The program also bears special significance in achieving the Kingdom’s aspirations and the goals of its Vision 2030 in the field of space, in addition to the effective contributions of the program in raising the Kingdom’s position in the space sector and placing it among the leading countries in the field of space by 2030 AD.
Among the most important expected returns on the future of the country: activating the scientific innovations in the program at the level of space sciences, which will reflect positively on the future of the industry and the country; focusing on the importance of developing skills, such as increasing national interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates and scaling-up investment in their potentials; developing human capital in accordance with the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 – by attracting talents and developing the necessary skills.
Furthermore, the program works to enhance the Kingdom’s position on the map of countries that race towards space and invest in its specialized sciences.
The launch of this program will pave the way for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s ambitions in the field of space exploration, especially since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is able to conduct its own research independently.
This ambition is reinforced by the Kingdom’s possession of previous achievements that contributed to space flight, in addition to great national cadres that will make achievements at the local and global levels. Through the program, it aspires to enable more distinguished and talented citizens to unleash their capabilities and compete locally and globally.