They’re back! Saudi astronauts return safely to Earth after mission to International Space Station

Update They’re back! Saudi astronauts return safely to Earth after mission to International Space Station
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The first view of the four after the safely landed back on Earth. (AXIOM Space screengrab)
Update They’re back! Saudi astronauts return safely to Earth after mission to International Space Station
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The crew includes commander, former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, and pilot John Shoffner, flanked by Saudis Ali Al-Qarni and Rayyanah Barnawi. (AXIOM Space)
Update They’re back! Saudi astronauts return safely to Earth after mission to International Space Station
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Updated 31 May 2023
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They’re back! Saudi astronauts return safely to Earth after mission to International Space Station

They’re back! Saudi astronauts return safely to Earth after mission to International Space Station
  • Rayyanah Barnawi first Saudi Arabian and Arab woman to go into space
  • Two Saudi astronauts carried out 8 days of significant research aboard the ISS

JEDDAH: The second all-private mission to fly to the International Space Station returned to Earth off the coast of Florida on Wednesday, carrying two Saudi astronauts following eight days of scientific research aboard the ISS.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying them parachuted down onto the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, after a 12-hour return flight and blazing re-entry plunge through Earth's atmosphere.
The splashdown was carried live by a joint webcast presented by SpaceX and the company behind the mission, Axiom Space.

Mission Specialists Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi participated in experiments with Saudi school children as part of their eight-day stay on ISS.

When the door of the capsule opened Rayyanah Barnawi, the first Arab woman to orbit Earth, gave a thumbs up to the camera.

The four astronauts were helped out of the capsule by crew before boarding a helicopter to land where they are due to be flown to Cape Canaveral by plane, where they will meet their families.

 

The touchdown concluded the second space station mission organized, equipped and trained entirely at private expense by Axiom, a 7-year-old Houston-based venture headed by NASA's former ISS program manager.

The Saudi government picked up the multimillion-dollar tab for its two astronauts: Rayyanah Barnawi, a stem cell researcher who became the first Saudi woman in space; and fighter pilot Ali al-Qarni.
The Axiom 2 crew was led by retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, 63, who holds the US record for most time spent in orbit with 665 days in space over three long-duration missions to the ISS, including 10 spacewalks.

During the mission tasks involved working with cutting-edge technologies, while the two Saudis acted as global ambassadors in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

 

 

TIMELINE: AX-2 mission’s return to Earth

Some do argue that strictly speaking Barnawi was not the first Arab woman to enter space.

Indeed, in August 2022, Sara Sabry became the first Arab woman and the first Egyptian to fly to space on a brief suborbital ride operated by the Blue Origin astro-tourist venture of Jeff Bezos.

But Barnawi was the first to enter space and orbit Earth.
The ISS stay of Alqarni and Barnawi was also notable for overlapping with that of Sultan Alneyadi, an ISS Expedition-69 crew member from the United Arab Emirates, marking the first time three astronauts from the Arab world were aboard the space station together.
 




The Axiom Mission-2 and Expedition 69 crew members pose for a portrait together during dinner time aboard the International Space Station. (NASA)

In an emotional farewell ceremony at the end of the mission on Monday, the Axiom-2 crew members reflected on their time in space.

Barnawi said: “Every story comes to an end, and this is only the beginning of a new era for our country and our region.”

Al-Qarni, who with Barnawi became the first Saudi to visit the space station, said: “This is our last day in our great mission. We have achieved all our tasks and it will benefit our country and people in the future.”

Both the astronauts completed 14 pioneering experiments in microgravity, three of which were dedicated to educational and motivational purposes with the participation of 12,000 Saudi students in 47 different locations across the Kingdom.

With them, the craft returned to Earth with a cargo including NASA hardware and data from over 20 different experiments.




The capsule retrieve from the sea. (SpaceX)

The flight launched on May 21 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and docked with the station on May 22.

The Axiom 2 mission, which launched on May 21, was the latest in a series of space expeditions bankrolled by private investment capital and wealthy passengers rather than by taxpayer dollars as NASA seeks to expand commercial access to low-Earth orbit.
Axiom, which sent its first four-member astronaut team to ISS in April 2022, also has signed a contract with the U.S. space agency to build the first commercial addition to the orbiting laboratory.
California-based SpaceX, founded by Twitter owner and Tesla Inc electric carmaker CEO Elon Musk, supplied the Falcon 9 rocket and crew capsule that ferried Axiom’s team to and from orbit and controlled the flight.
NASA furnished the launch site at its Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and assumed responsibility for the Axiom crew during their stay aboard the space station, orbiting some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth. 

(With agencies)


Saudi crown prince, Iraqi PM discuss Middle East escalation

Saudi crown prince, Iraqi PM discuss Middle East escalation
Updated 8 sec ago
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Saudi crown prince, Iraqi PM discuss Middle East escalation

Saudi crown prince, Iraqi PM discuss Middle East escalation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke with the prime minister of Iraq on Sunday, Saudi Press Agency reported. 

During their phone call, Prince Mohammed and Mohammed Al-Sudani discussed developments in the region and increasing escalation against the backdrop of the crisis in the Gaza Strip and its repercussions.

They also dissussed the importance of making the necessary efforts to prevent the situation from worsening and ways to spare the region from the risks of escalation, SPA added.


Saudi FM receives phone call from Iranian counterpart

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. (File/AFP)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 min 46 sec ago
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Saudi FM receives phone call from Iranian counterpart

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. (File/AFP)

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan received a phone call from his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Sunday.

During the call, the officials discussed developments in the region and increasing escalation against the backdrop of the crisis in the Gaza Strip and its repercussions.


Saudi defense minister discusses military escalation in region with US counterpart

Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman discussed the military escalation in Middle East with US Secretary of Defense.
Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman discussed the military escalation in Middle East with US Secretary of Defense.
Updated 39 min 4 sec ago
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Saudi defense minister discusses military escalation in region with US counterpart

Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman discussed the military escalation in Middle East with US Secretary of Defense.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman discussed the military escalation in the Middle East on Sunday with his US counterpart during a phone call.

The call comes after Iran launched a wave of missiles and attack drones against Israel overnight Saturday to Sunday.

Prince Khalid and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also discussed efforts to contain the crisis while upholding international peace and security.

The officials also reviewed their strategic defense partnership and explored ways to further enhance it, the Kingdom’s defense minister said in a post on X. 


Saudi artist seeks to beat limitations and transcend comfort zones

Saudi artist seeks to beat limitations and transcend comfort zones
Updated 48 min 59 sec ago
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Saudi artist seeks to beat limitations and transcend comfort zones

Saudi artist seeks to beat limitations and transcend comfort zones
  • Ali Alhammadi has been passionate about visual arts since childhood

JEDDAH: Ali Alhammadi, a Saudi 32-year-old visual artist from Aldawadmi in Riyadh, has carved out a remarkable pathway in the world of art since his professional debut in 2017.

Passionate about visual arts since childhood, Alhammadi’s artistic inspiration was ignited by the “Saudi renaissance” in line with Vision 2030, prompting him to embark on a creative expedition to express his perceptions through the canvas.

Alhammadi told Arab News that his art philosophy is about breaking invisible limitations and transcending comfort zones, drawing inspiration from the evergreen landscapes he encountered during camping trips with his father in the Riyadh desert.

Passionate about visual arts since childhood, Ali Alhammadi’s artistic inspiration was ignited by the ‘Saudi renaissance’ in line with Vision 2030. (Supplied)

“During every spring season, me and my father used to go camping in the outskirts of Riyadh, when the desert turns green for a couple of months, where all the magical inspiration happens.”

Through his landscapes and abstract pieces, Alhammadi delves into his feelings, insecurities and aspirations, painting a narrative that speaks volumes.

“I use my art to express both happiness and sadness, and sometimes I start a painting with an idea in mind, but then I end up with a new one,” he said.

Ali Alhammadi, Saudi artist

One of Alhammadi’s pioneering techniques, “Invisible Limitations,” challenges traditional conceptions and societal norms, symbolizing the potential within, and beyond self-imposed boundaries. He said that his work reflects a realization that limitations are merely illusions.

“Our comfort zone sometimes restricts our ability to be inspired and inspire others. That’s why I decided to paint the Invisible Limitations theme.

“As I matured, I realized that most of these limitations don’t exist ... our limitation is the sky.”

Passionate about visual arts since childhood, Ali Alhammadi’s artistic inspiration was ignited by the ‘Saudi renaissance’ in line with Vision 2030. (Supplied)

Alhammadi’s artistic evolution has been influenced by his participation in prestigious exhibitions such as The Stars Exhibition at the German Embassy in Saudi Arabia and the second Riyadh Season Exhibition.

These platforms not only showcased his talent but also provided a catalyst for his creative development, empowering him to delve deeper into his cultural roots while embracing global influences.

Navigating between diverse cultural landscapes, Alhammadi, based between Liverpool and Riyadh, seamlessly fuses vibrant hues and styles, blending Saudi heritage and international artistic trends.

His experiences abroad have expanded his artistic horizons, inspiring him to create artworks that resonate with a global audience while retaining a distinctive Saudi essence. “Now that I have found my theme and art style, I believe that this phase will take me to different phases in my professional art career,” he said.

Looking toward the future, Alhammadi envisions his artwork evolving to explore the intricacies of human and cultural relationships, going deeper into themes that resonate with universal emotions and experiences. “Human and cultural relationships is something I’m keen on expressing through art,” he said.

His participation in international and local events such as the Founding Day in Liverpool and the National Day in London has not only spotlighted his talent but also enriched his artistic narrative with a tapestry of diverse influences.

For aspiring visual artists embarking on their creative odyssey, Alhammadi offers this advice: “Stay true to your vision, embrace your unique style, and let your art tell your story.”

 


Saudi authorities crack down on drug offenders in Jazan

Saudi police have arrested individuals carrying prohibited drugs. (SPA)
Saudi police have arrested individuals carrying prohibited drugs. (SPA)
Updated 59 min 27 sec ago
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Saudi authorities crack down on drug offenders in Jazan

Saudi police have arrested individuals carrying prohibited drugs. (SPA)
  • Authorities apprehended a citizen with 71 kg of hashish hidden in a vehicle in Al-Dayer governorate

RIYADH: Saudi authorities recently made several drug-related arrests and confiscations in operations in the Jazan region, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.

In the Al-Dayer governorate of Jazan, Border Guards thwarted an attempt to smuggle 175 kg of narcotic qat.

The guards also apprehended three Yemeni nationals attempting to smuggle 60 kg of qat in Jazan.

In another incident, land patrols in the Jazan region arrested a citizen for selling qat plants hidden in his vehicle.

Authorities also apprehended a citizen with 71 kg of hashish hidden in a vehicle in Al-Dayer governorate.

Border Guards patrols in the Al-Arda governorate in the Jazan region intercepted the smuggling of 160 kg of qat.

Preliminary legal procedures have been completed for all the individuals involved and all seized items have been handed to the authorities.

The Saudi government urges anyone with information related to suspected smuggling operations or customs violations to call the confidential hotline 1910, the international number +966114208417, or to email [email protected].

Tips received relating to smuggling and breaches of common customs law are treated with strict confidentiality. Financial rewards are offered for valid tips.