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)


High demand for fresh water is threatening ‘optimistic expectations,’ says expert

High demand for fresh water is threatening ‘optimistic expectations,’ says expert
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High demand for fresh water is threatening ‘optimistic expectations,’ says expert

High demand for fresh water is threatening ‘optimistic expectations,’ says expert
  • Marco Arcieri: "Modern irrigation plays a crucial role in ensuring food supplies and supporting economic development in many countries"

RIYADH: The first Regional Conference on Irrigation and Agricultural Drainage in the Middle East held under the theme “Integrated management of the irrigation sector for sustainable development” opened on Monday in Riyadh.

The three-day conference is organized by the Saudi Irrigation Organization in collaboration with the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage.

Speaking at the conference, Marco Arcieri, president of the ICID, warned that the increasing demands on the world’s freshwater sources are threatening “the most optimistic expectations,” noting that climate change will exacerbate these conditions.

Marco Arcieri, the President of International Commission on Irrigation & Drainage. (Supplied)

He emphasized the strategic importance of ensuring water provision, increasing agricultural production, and guaranteeing food security.

Modern irrigation plays a crucial role in ensuring food supplies and supporting economic development in many countries, Arcieri said.

The financing of new irrigation projects contributes significantly to improving productivity and increasing the resilience of rural communities through the more efficient use of water resources, he added.

Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli, Saudi Arabia’s minister of environment, water and agriculture,
underscored the importance of concerted efforts and the exchange of expertise to address irrigation and agricultural drainage issues and promote sustainable development.

“In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been keen on adopting numerous plans and strategies aimed at enhancing water services, maximizing their utilization and sustainability within a comprehensive vision,” he said.

Mohammed Abu Heed, president of the Saudi Irrigation Organization, affirmed that the conference represents a valuable opportunity for exchanging experiences, forming partnerships, and promoting awareness of the importance of water, a precious resource that must be preserved.

He said that the authority is making commendable efforts in raising awareness about water conservation.

The conference aims to find sustainable solutions for managing available water resources and maximizing the utilization of renewable sources to address the increasing demand for water in the agricultural sector.

It also seeks to provide a platform for stakeholders in the field to exchange knowledge, create partnerships, and promote integrated management of irrigation and drainage water.

The conference focuses on the irrigation sector and related topics, with the most important being the production of non-traditional water sources and their reuse, such as treated wastewater.

It highlights trends in irrigation methods, treated irrigation water technologies, dam operations for irrigation purposes, and the added value of data collection technologies and artificial intelligence in sustainable smart irrigation.

 


Forces from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan conclude military exercise in Multan

Forces from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan conclude military exercise in Multan
Updated 7 min 19 sec ago
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Forces from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan conclude military exercise in Multan

Forces from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan conclude military exercise in Multan
  • Saudi Arabia and Pakistan enjoy strong defense ties and bilateral security cooperation

ISLAMABAD: The Royal Saudi Land Forces and the army in Pakistan have concluded a joint military training exercise in the eastern city of Multan that aimed at enhancing capabilities and exchanging expertise, the Pakistani military said on Tuesday.

The exercise in Pakistan took place from Jan. 15 to Feb. 26 with a view to fostering joint employment techniques while enabling both parties to benefit from the experience, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations, the Pakistani military’s media wing.

The ISPR said in a statement: “The training, which encompassed conventional as well as sub-conventional operations, culminated with (a) field maneuver and battle inoculation exercise, employing air and ground forces.”

The commander of Pakistan’s Multan Corps saw the exercise as chief guest and expressed his satisfaction over mutual understanding and the training standards achieved, according to the ISPR.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan enjoy strong defense ties and bilateral security cooperation. The two nations regularly engage in joint air, ground, and sea military exercises, while several cadets from the Kingdom, along with counterparts from other Middle Eastern nations, annually visit Pakistan to undergo specialized military training.

The joint exercise in Multan further consolidated long-standing relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the ISPR added.

 


Yanbu festival honors King Salman, breaks world record

Yanbu festival honors King Salman, breaks world record
Updated 27 February 2024
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Yanbu festival honors King Salman, breaks world record

Yanbu festival honors King Salman, breaks world record
  • In honor of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the record-breaking floral arrangement read ‘Salman’ made from 19,464 roses
  • Saudi calligrapher Hani Mehalawi: ‘I am delighted to be part of this work and set this new world record which honors our beloved king’

JEDDAH: Yanbu has set a new Guinness World Record for the largest flower word displayed at the Flower and Garden Festival 2024, which started recently and runs until March 9.

In honor of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the record-breaking floral arrangement read “Salman” made from 19,464 roses.

In collaboration with Jubail and Yanbu Industrial Cities Services Co., the masterpiece, which was completed on Feb. 13 by Saudi calligrapher Hani Mehalawi, stood 16 meters wide and six meters tall and is a magnificent work of art.

The entire procedure was overseen by official adjudicators from Guinness World Records, who examined every part of the record attempt from beginning to end.

Mehalawi spoke to Arab News and expressed his joy and happiness in writing the largest flower word. “This feat showed our dedication to our King. With the message behind this initiative being especially close to our hearts, I am indeed delighted to be part of this huge work and set this new world record which honors our beloved king.”

He explained that it took over three days to complete the monumental task of assembling the world’s largest flower word.

“It was a very happy moment for me when the officials of the Flower and Garden Festival asked me to do the work in  short notice but I managed to finish it within few days. My part was to write the name and they filled it with flowers,” he added.

This year’s Flower and Garden Festival also featured the world’s largest flower basket, with 127,224 natural white and red petunia flowers, as well as the world’s largest illuminated flower garden, with a total of 250,000 illuminated flowers. The biennial celebration also featured the largest recyclable vehicle (a space rocket) with a total length of 30,364 meters.


Saudi crown prince receives Ukraine president in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 36 min 46 sec ago
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Saudi crown prince receives Ukraine president in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)
  • Aspects of Saudi-Ukrainian relations were reviewed, and the latest developments in the Ukrainian-Russian war were discussed during the meeting

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky in Riyadh on Tuesday.

During the reception, aspects of Saudi-Ukrainian relations were reviewed, and the latest developments in the Ukrainian-Russian war were discussed, Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The crown prince stressed the Kingdom’s support for all international endeavors and efforts aimed at resolving the crisis and achieving peace, and continuing efforts to alleviate the humanitarian repercussions of the war. 

Zelensky wrote on social media platform X that he would discuss prisoners of war and deportees with the crown prince.

“The Kingdom’s leadership has already contributed to the release of our people. I am confident that this meeting will also yield results,” he wrote. 

The crown prince was involved in securing the release of 10 foreign prisoners captured in Ukraine in September 2022 which then enabled a major prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine.

The president added that he will discuss “promising areas of economic cooperation and Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Ukraine’s reconstruction” during his visit. 


KSrelief, UN officials hold talks on volunteer programs

KSrelief, UN officials hold talks on volunteer programs
Updated 27 February 2024
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KSrelief, UN officials hold talks on volunteer programs

KSrelief, UN officials hold talks on volunteer programs

RIYADH: Officials from Saudi Arabia’s aid agency, KSrelief, and the UN held talks on their respective volunteer programs in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Ali bin Saad Al-Qarni, director of volunteer programs at KSrelief, met with Niels Knudsen, who is the external communications chief for the UN Volunteers program. There were several UN officials present at the meeting.

Al-Qarni said KSrelief has 597 volunteer projects running in 40 countries across the world, which cover health, education, and vocational training.

The projects have benefited more than 1.5 million people.

Al-Qarni also highlighted KSrelief’s efforts in developing the skills of volunteers and humanitarian workers in needy countries around the globe.

Knudsen and Al-Qarni held discussions on future areas of cooperation.