saudi arabia sends first arab women to space

Taking yet another step to modernize its country, Saudi Arabia has sent the first Arab woman to space on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, US.

The country sent Rayyanah Barnawi who is a breast cancer researcher to the International Space Station (ISS) along with Ali al-Qarni – a fighter pilot with Royal Saudi Airforce.

Joining the Saudi duo on the rocket were John Shoffner who is a businessman from Tennessee and a space enthusiast, and Peggy Whitson who has been to the ISS thrice and holds the US record for most days in space.

Barnawi was quite upbeat on the space travel and said before the flight “This is a dream come true for everyone.”

She added, “Just being able to understand that this is possible. If me and Ali can do it, then they can do it, too.”

After the flight settled into orbit, Barnawi – whose trip was sponsored by the Saudi government said, “Hello from outer space! It feels amazing to be viewing Earth from this capsule.”

Saudi Arabia Sends First Arab Women to Space

It is no mean achievement for Saudi Arabia where women were barred from driving vehicles until about five years back.

However, under crown prince Mohammed bin Salman who’s popularly known by his initials “MBS” Saudi Arabia has taken several measures to reform the country – both socially and economically.

For instance, Saudi Arabia has been trying to diversify its oil-dominated economy and among others, it sees a big opportunity in electric vehicles (EVs).

Last year, it partnered with Foxconn to produce EVs in the kingdom. The kingdom’s public investment fund (PIF) holds a 60% stake in US EV startup Lucid Motors.

The country first bought a stake in Lucid Motors in 2018 and has since increased the investment – including in the last year’s stock offering through which Lucid raised $1.5 billion.

Notably, PIF invested in Lucid Motors months after Elon Musk’s controversial “taking Tesla private” tweet for which the billionaire believed that he had the backing of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia Moves to Reform its Markets

Saudi Arabia has taken multiple measures to reform the economy and also listed the state-owned oil giant Aramco in 2019.

Thanks to the spike in oil prices, Aramco posted record profits in 2022. The stock is meanwhile listed only in Saudi Arabia.

Under MBS, Saudi Arabia has set a “Vision 2030” for itself which has three themes – a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious nation.”

The country is welcoming international companies to do business in the country. Investing in bitcoins is also legal in Saudi Arabia – even though like most other countries its regulators also don’t provide any sort of protection from crypto-related losses.

All said, by sponsoring and sending the first Arab woman to space, Saudi Arabia has raised hopes of more reforms in the country.

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