JEDDAH/RIYADH: The Saudi Space Commission on Monday launched its Saudi Towards Space exhibitions in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dhahran to coincide with the take-off of Axiom’s second mission to the International Space Station.
The events, running until June 1 in the capital and June 2 in the other two cities, aim to give visitors an intergalactic experience while providing opportunities to explore the vast field of space, and learn about space flight, astronomy, and cosmology.
Information will also be provided on modern scientific theories about the nature of the universe, delivered through the use of educational games, interactive simulators, live shows, and workshops.
Saudi astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Alqarni were among a crew of four that blasted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida early on Monday on the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour rocket, becoming the first Saudis in space since Prince Sultan bin Salman in 1985.
The commission aims to boost national interest in the space sector and inspire the next generation to work in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
In Jeddah, Abdulrahman Al-Najjar, a member of the guiding team at the exhibition, said it provided educational opportunities for people of all ages to learn more about space travel.
“This is an exhibition, it’s recreational, interactive, immersive, and there is virtual reality,” he added.
Father of two boys, Saad Al-Aboud, said: “It’s history in the making for a whole new generation as on Monday we witnessed our astronauts go to space.
“It (the exhibition) provides actual scale models so people can understand what it really took to get to the Moon.”
Mohammed Abdulwahed said he attended the exhibit because one of his sons, Khalid, 12, loved everything to do with space.
“We stood until midnight to watch the historical trip of our astronauts, we really had mixed feelings, but we are really proud of them and hope they accomplish what they are aiming to,” he added.
Khalid said that he stayed up all night to watch the launch. “I like it and I love Ali and Rayyanah.”
In Riyadh, the vast space in which Winter Wonderland was once housed has been converted into an immersive and interactive space-centric area.
It has three main zones — an exhibition area with several large screens, installations, VR experiences, smart screens, and guides on the ground, a zone housing a stage with live experiments by experts in the field, and another space with food vendors and rest areas.
Invited guests also attended a countdown viewing party to watch the launch live on a large screen.
Nourah bint Khalid took her sons Bandar, 12, and Mohammad, eight, to the exhibition’s opening night in Riyadh.
Bandar said: “I learned today about who is going to space and when they are going, and that they’ll be testing everything and doing experiments.”
Mohammad said: “It’s the first time a female from our country has been into space, so it’s exciting.”
Khalid said: “Yesterday, their father and I talked about how we were lucky to have a child who was interested in space now. If his passion for space continues, he’ll have a place that can help him achieve his goals or reach higher places.
“This is a very historic moment and we’re extremely proud. The moment I walked in here, I choked up. This proves that when Saudis decide to do something, they can do the best. They can go all the way, from zero to forever.”