Saudi Arabia investing in its own future space missions

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Updated 01 June 2023
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Saudi Arabia investing in its own future space missions

Saudi Arabia investing in its own future space missions
  • Only a matter of time, says Kingdom’s US embassy spokesperson
  • Current partnership with NASA, Axiom to continue

CHICAGO: The 10-day trip of two Saudi astronauts to the International Space Station this week is part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan and the goal to launch the country’s own space missions, the nation’s US Embassy spokesman Fahad Nazer said Wednesday.

Nazer, during an interview on The Ray Hanania Radio Show, said Saudis were “very proud” of the achievements of Rayyanah Barnawi, the first female Saudi astronaut, and her colleague Ali Alqarni, who are part of a growing Saudi Space Commission.

Barnawi and Alqarni were following in the footsteps of Prince Sultan bin Salman, the first Arab and Muslim to travel to outer space as a member of the weeklong Space Shuttle Discovery mission which launched on June 17, 1985.

 

“The astronauts were actually able to conduct some experiments along with 12,000 students in Saudi Arabia. So, they had a livestream with them, a webchat, and they conducted basic experiments with the students. But obviously part of the mission, part of the purpose of space exploration is that we are trying to encourage young Saudi men and women students and to pique their interests in science and technology and mathematics and physics, and we are hoping that we achieved some of these goals in addition to the goals of the mission itself,” Nazer explained.

“The Kingdom does have its own Saudi Space Commission. It has a pretty rigorous program of research but also it has a program for selecting and training astronauts. So, we believe that space exploration is very much consistent with our investments in science, technology and innovations that is a part of our Vision 2030. For the foreseeable future we will continue to partner with NASA and Axiom and other organizations. But … it is ultimately a matter of time that we will launch our own space missions.”

Barnawi and Alqarni lifted off in the Axiom 2, or AX-2, from Houston’s Axiom Space Center on May 21 for the ISS, the second private mission to the orbiting outpost, and returned in the SpaceX Capsule, Crew Dragon spacecraft Freedom, splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City, Florida, minutes before midnight Tuesday May 30. The first all-civilian space mission was in April 2022.

 

“As you know Saudi Arabia is undergoing a remarkable transformation known as Vision 2030. The vision is a package of economic and social reforms that has a number of objectives. One of them, or some of them include improving healthcare, improving (the) education system, the transportation system and also combatting climate change among many objectives.

“So (we have) a number of these objectives. We believe that the keys to achieving them is through investing in science, technology and innovation, and certainly our interests in space exploration is very consistent with these goals. In fact our interest in space exploration goes back decades. Back in 1985 His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman was the first Arab and first Muslim to go into space when he joined the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery,” Nazer told Arab News during the radio interview.

“More recently, obviously, we had two Saudi astronauts including the first woman ever, Rayyanah Barnawi, and her colleague Ali Alqarni, who went on this 10-day mission to the International Space Station … this was part of the Axiom Space Mission. They were in space for approximately 10 days.

“They conducted 14 different research experiments in different scientific fields including cloud seeding. Six other experiments, is my understanding, (were) focused on the brain and the nervous system and four others focused on the immune system. And like you said they just came back to Earth earlier this morning. They returned to Houston Airport. So, this was a great moment for our space program and a great moment for the Kingdom. We are proud of them.”

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying Barnawi and Alqarni parachuted down into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, after a 12-hour return flight and blazing reentry through Earth’s atmosphere.

Nazer said Saudis around the world were excited and proud of the two astronauts and what they accomplished during the mission.

 

“People back in the Kingdom were essentially able to see almost every move that the astronauts made from the launch to the return. The astronauts like I said, did a few webchats and livestreams with the Saudi students. Much of their experience was captured on camera,” Nazer said.

“They (the astronauts) shared everything, from what they ate to their (living) quarters including some of the experiments. So, in that sense I think it was certainly very different than when his royal highness went to space back in 1985. But this was a very proud moment for us. I think it was an indication of the commitment of our leadership to science and technology and innovation. And we are certainly hoping it will encourage a lot of young Saudi men and women to go into, whether it is space exploration or other scientific fields going forward.”

According to its website, Vision 2030 was launched under the leadership of King Salman, as “a roadmap” by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “to harness the strengths God bestowed upon us — our strategic position, investment power and place at the center of (the) Arab and Islamic worlds. The full attention of the Kingdom, and our leadership, is on harnessing our potential to achieve our ambitions.”

Nazer’s comments were made during an appearance on The Ray Hanania Radio Show broadcast Wednesday May 31 live in Detroit and Washington D.C. on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News. 

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.


Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s continued acts of genocide in Rafah 

Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s continued acts of genocide in Rafah 
Updated 29 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s continued acts of genocide in Rafah 

Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s continued acts of genocide in Rafah 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia condemned on Tuesday the Israeli forces’ continued “genocidal massacres against the Palestinian people without deterrence” by targeting the tents of defenseless Palestinian refugees in Rafah.

The Kingdom holds the Israeli authorities fully responsible for what is happening in Rafah and all the occupied Palestinian territories, a foreign ministry statement read.

Israel’s military denied striking a tent camp west of the city of Rafah on Tuesday after Gaza health authorities said Israeli tank shelling had killed at least 21 people there, in what Israel has designated a civilian evacuation zone.

Earlier, defying an appeal from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Israeli tanks advanced to the heart of Rafah for the first time after a night of heavy bombardment, while Spain, Ireland and Norway officially recognized a Palestinian state, a move that further deepened Israel’s international isolation.

Saudi Arabia reiterated that the Israeli forces’ blatant violation of all international and humanitarian laws and norms, amid the silence of the international community, exacerbates the unprecedented Palestinian humanitarian catastrophe, and puts the credibility of international legitimacy institution at stake.

“The Kingdom stresses the need for the international community to assume its responsibilities to stop the massacres against the Palestinian people and hold those responsible accountable,” the statement concluded.

- With Reuters. 


Saudi Ministry of Media, Microsoft Arabia sign memorandum of understanding

Saudi Ministry of Media, Microsoft Arabia sign memorandum of understanding
Updated 28 May 2024
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Saudi Ministry of Media, Microsoft Arabia sign memorandum of understanding

Saudi Ministry of Media, Microsoft Arabia sign memorandum of understanding
  • Deal aims to advance media sector in the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Media signed a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft Arabia in Riyadh on Tuesday covering several areas of cooperation, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by the Assistant Minister of Media Abdullah Al-Maghlouth, and Ziad Mansour, Microsoft’s executive vice president of data and artificial intelligence.

Bassem Al-Hazmi, the general manager of digital transformation and information technology and the general manager of cybersecurity, was also present, along with the President of Microsoft Arabia Turki Badhris.

Cooperation will include developing technical aspects in the areas of data analysis, self-learning, AI, security and privacy solutions, and various software and service development solutions.

It will aim to raise the quality of local media content and keep pace with global transformations to serve the future goals of the Ministry of Media.

The memorandum also bids to advance the media sector in the Kingdom, enabling it to contribute to the local economy while benefiting from the developments of AI and its multiple applications in the field of media.


Who’s Who: Mansour Al-Babtain, VP of commercial partnerships and liaison at World Defense Show

Who’s Who: Mansour Al-Babtain, VP of commercial partnerships and liaison at World Defense Show
Updated 28 May 2024
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Who’s Who: Mansour Al-Babtain, VP of commercial partnerships and liaison at World Defense Show

Who’s Who: Mansour Al-Babtain, VP of commercial partnerships and liaison at World Defense Show

Mansour Al-Babtain is the vice president of commercial partnerships and liaison at the World Defense Show.

A former fighter pilot, Al-Babtain has extensive experience working with high-level government figures and private-sector leaders.

He joined the WDS in April 2021. His current role is to oversee the sales, sponsorship and customer experience divisions, in addition to maintaining his liaison responsibilities with Saudi government entities including the General Authority for Military Industries and international delegations.

The department links WDS business owners with the appropriate government entities, ensures the security of the location and people prior to, during and following the show, and manages WDS committees.

From the initial show license to security support, Al-Babtain effectively manages the challenges of ensuring the smooth entry and exit of military supplies, technology, and personnel.

Having graduated from King Faisal Air Academy, he served 12 years in the Royal Saudi Air Force as a fighter pilot, squadron leader and tactical intelligence officer before moving to the Ministry of Defense and later to several government entities.

In addition to his degree in aerial sciences, Al-Babtain holds a master’s degree in strategic studies from Air University in Alabama and a diploma in diplomatic and political relations from the International Arbitration Commission in Cairo.
 


AI and intellectual property in the spotlight at Arab League meeting

AI and intellectual property in the spotlight at Arab League meeting
Updated 28 May 2024
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AI and intellectual property in the spotlight at Arab League meeting

AI and intellectual property in the spotlight at Arab League meeting

RIYADH: Intellectual property and artificial intelligence will be discussed at a regional meeting of the Arab League’s Intellectual Property and Competitiveness Department on Wednesday.

The virtual gathering, which will be hosted via video link, will include experts from the World Intellectual Property Organization and governmental intellectual property offices from several Arab nations, reported Saudi Press Agency.

Key topics on the agenda are optimizing intellectual property frameworks for AI development, the impact of AI on patenting processes, legislative efforts to address legal challenges, and implications of AI for copyright regulations.

Minister Plenipotentiary Dr. Maha Bakheet, director of legal affairs at the Intellectual Property and Competitiveness Department, said the meeting aimed to safeguard AI models through intellectual property mechanisms and enhance services.

It also hopes to drive service delivery and management progress within regional intellectual property offices.


Saudi recruiters to face heavy fines for visa violations

Saudi recruiters to face heavy fines for visa violations
Updated 28 May 2024
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Saudi recruiters to face heavy fines for visa violations

Saudi recruiters to face heavy fines for visa violations

RIYADH: The General Directorate of Public Security announced that recruiters who postpone reporting the departures of employees as soon as their entry visas expire will be subject to a fine of about SR50,000 ($13,300), imprisonment for up to six months, and deportation of recruitees if they are expatriates.

The directorate called for reporting residency, work and border security regulation violations by dialing the numbers (911) in Makkah, Riyadh and the Eastern Province, and (999) in the rest of the Kingdom.

According to the Saudi Press Agency report, the directorate said that from May 23 until June 21, anyone holding a visit visa of any type is not permitted to enter or remain in Makkah.

A visit visa of any type and name does not entitle its holder to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, added the directorate.