CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., May 25, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The two astronauts, Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni started their scientific mission AX-2 on board the International Space Station today. They will make the Kingdom’s history in space and science research undertaking 14 pioneering experiments in microgravity, out of which, three will be dedicated to educational motivational purposes with the participation of 12 thousand Saudi students in 42 different locations across the Kingdom in real time via satellites. This is an epic moment, aimed at preparing future astronauts and engineers, through quality educational and training programs, participation in scientific experiments, international research and future space-related missions – all of which will contribute to servicing humanity and to achieving the goals of Vision 2030.
The team also comprise in addition to Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni, two astronauts, Peggy Whitson and John Shoffner. They have all started completing their mission after the successful docking of their spaceship Dragon 2 with the International Space Station on 24 of May, where they have settled down.
To better understand the impact of being in space, in a microgravity and a high radiation environment, on the human brain and nervous system, the Saudi astronauts are conducting six experiments aboard the ISS. The research aims at evaluating the repercussions of space on human health and at evaluating the safety of such space trips on the human brain. It will utilize novel neuroscience tools including measuring blood flow to the brain and the brain’s electrical activity, assess intracranial pressure by non-invasive assessment of the pupil of the eye, and monitor changes in the optic nerve over time in order to make these space trips safer for humans in the future.
The two Saudi astronauts will also do four cell science experiments to investigate the inflammatory response of human immune cells in microgravity. More specifically their research will be focused on changes in mRNA decay, a process that can turn inflammation off. In addition, response to therapy is mimicked by utilizing the same cellular model. The crew will take RNA samples for analysis on the ground, where the investigators will monitor RNA expression patterns, and excitedly thousands of mRNA half-lives will be measured. Results are expected to contribute to a better understanding of space health and uncover biomarkers or potential therapies for inflammatory diseases in both Space and Earth.
In the aim of improving researchers’ understanding of rain-seeding technology, which will contribute to increasing rainfall in many countries, the two Saudi astronauts will lead an artificial rain experiment, in which water vapor will be condensed on plankton and salt atoms in microgravity that simulate the cloud seeding process that is used in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and many other countries to increase precipitation rates. Results will help scientists and researchers devise new ways 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.
In addition to these experiments, and in order to develop further student knowledge of space science and its contribution to improving the quality of life on earth, three educational awareness experiments will be conducted aboard the ISS in real time with students across Saudi, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Mawhiba, Riyadh Schools and Misk Schools. This real-time interaction ensures that students will have access to the Saudi crew live as they perform their experiments together, one on Earth, and one in space simultaneously.
SSC has stated that the mission of the two astronauts is considered to be the cornerstone of the Kingdom’s space research and development. Their trip accomplishes the ambition of the Kingdom to initiate space exploration as the first middle eastern country and to become one of the world’s leaders in space programs, at the service of humanity.
This mission to the International Space Station of two Saudi astronauts, launched by the Saudi Space Commission is part of the Kingdom’s program to space. SSC is confident that this trip will orient the Saudi youth into pursuing their studies in space programs, communication and satellites, and encourage them to continue their education in engineering and mathematics. Hence it aims to prepare future Saudi astronauts through quality educational and training programs, participation in scientific experiments, international research and future space-related missions – all of which will contribute to raising the status of the Kingdom in the development of space research and to achieving the goals of Vision 2030.
Notes to Editors
About The Saudi Space Commission (SSC):
The Saudi Space Commission was established by the royal order in December of 2018 (Rabi II 1440). This bold step serves a future that is innovative and looks forward to the latest technologies and opportunities in the Saudi Space Industry.
With the Kingdom moving towards a progressive quality of life, SSC demonstrates the aligned vision of creating better, secure environments for its citizens while actively enabling prospects of lucrative economic and monetary inventions.
The SSC has strategized to create primary objectives that serve national security interests against space related risks and encourage cumulative growth and advancement.