‘My last night on Earth’: Saudi astronauts share insights at Misk Global Forum

Special ‘My last night on Earth’: Saudi astronauts share insights at Misk Global Forum
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Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Alqarni were part of Axion Mission 2 and worked on 14 experiments in microgravity during their eight-day stay aboard the ISS. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
Special ‘My last night on Earth’: Saudi astronauts share insights at Misk Global Forum
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Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Alqarni were part of Axion Mission 2 and worked on 14 experiments in microgravity during their eight-day stay aboard the ISS. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 16 November 2023
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‘My last night on Earth’: Saudi astronauts share insights at Misk Global Forum

‘My last night on Earth’: Saudi astronauts share insights at Misk Global Forum
  • Rayyanah Barnawi, Ali Alqarni recall historic space journey for Diriyah audience
  • Session shed light on the Kingdom’s advances in space exploration and the professional opportunities that can be untapped in the space industry

RIYADH: Saudi astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Alqarni offered insights into their historic journey into space as part of a panel discussion during the Misk Global Forum in Diriyah on Wednesday.

The session, titled “Unlimited Ambition,” was moderated by Saudi aerospace engineer Mishaal Ashemimry. 

It shed light on the Kingdom’s advances in space exploration and the professional opportunities that can be untapped in the space industry. 

Barnawi, the Kingdom’s first female astronaut, said that physical fitness, psychological health, technical and scientific skills, and exploratory skills are key areas to consider before heading into space. 

Describing the demanding training schedule in different countries, she said: “We were trained in Houston, which has an entire building consisting of the International Space Station; then California in SpaceX; then San Antonio, which has a gravity test … and then we moved to Japan to train on the Japanese module, and then Germany to train on the German module.”

Alqarni shared his thoughts on the night before leaving for the ISS. “It was my last night on Earth. It included a wide range of mixed emotions, and I was drinking my last coffee. I thought that this would be my last cup before I go.”  

The astronauts said they each called their family before boarding the spacecraft and undertaking the three-hour preparations for takeoff.

“In a few minutes, day turned into night at the speed of a missile, and a breakthrough was made, reaching space within seven minutes,” Alqarni said.  

Their first day in space included adjusting to living without gravity, and following a schedule that allowed them to carry out experiments from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. 

The duo were part of the Axion Mission 2 and worked on 14 experiments in microgravity during their eight-day stay aboard the ISS. 

Barnawi, with a decade of experience in stem cell research, carried out experiments on human immune cells and their inflammatory response in a microgravity environment.

The experiments were affiliated with the country’s King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, in cooperation with the Saudi Space Commission. The aim was to determine the response of immune cells and the effects of some treatments on inflammatory conditions, understand the biological changes occurring in a microgravity environment, and the activity of genes in immune cells exposed to inflammation over time.

The experiments were conducted under the supervision of the research team led by the head of King Faisal’s Department of Molecules and Research Scientists.

Alqarni also had a busy research program that entailed exploring cloud-seeding techniques in a microgravity environment. In a reaction chamber, Alqarni combined salt crystals with moist air to see if water droplets would form.


Hail deputy governor joins Zubaida Trail for Founding Day

Hail deputy governor joins Zubaida Trail for Founding Day
Updated 22 February 2024
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Hail deputy governor joins Zubaida Trail for Founding Day

Hail deputy governor joins Zubaida Trail for Founding Day

HAIL: Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Muqrin, the deputy governor of Hail region, took part in a Zubaida Trail caravan on Thursday to mark Founding Day celebrations.

The caravan, overseen by the Heritage Commission and organized by the Caravans Trails Association, began its journey from the historic city of Fayd to Sumaira’ Province.

Prince Faisal honored the sponsors and partners, and along with hikers, horseback riders, camel riders and cyclists, took part in the caravan journey.

Along the route, the deputy governor spoke to groups taking part in the event, including Saudis and foreigners in the Kingdom.

Prince Faisal praised the government’s support for the heritage sector, and commended the dedication of all parties involved in the caravan program.

Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Obeida, general supervisor of the Zubaida Trail, praised the support given to the initiative by the Saudi leadership, as well as the Hail governor and his deputy.

He said that the scheme aims to revitalize the ancient route, which is one of many in Saudi Arabia dating back over 1,000 years.

Al-Obeida highlighted the importance of community involvement in sustaining and developing the trail route for economic, cultural and tourism purposes.
 


Endangered native animals released in Saudi reserve

Endangered native animals released in Saudi reserve
Updated 22 February 2024
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Endangered native animals released in Saudi reserve

Endangered native animals released in Saudi reserve

AL-ULA: Fourteen Arabian oryxes and 40 Arabian sand gazelles have been released into the Gharameel nature reserve by the the National Center for Wildlife.

The conservation effort at Gharameel, located 60 km north of AlUla, took place with cooperation from the Royal Commission for AlUla.

The reserve features unique biodiversity throughout its rock and sand formations, and hillsides.

Resettlement of endangered native species is a key target of the center, as well as restoring biodiversity and environmental balance as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

Animal reintroduction also promotes the RCU’s plan to activate six nature reserves while regenerating AlUla as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage.

The formations of rocky pillars in the area were created through wind and rain erosion over thousands of years.

AlUla is also a popular stargazing destination for tourists from around the world.
 


Saudi honeybee program achieves 200% productivity boost

Saudi honeybee program achieves 200% productivity boost
Updated 22 February 2024
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Saudi honeybee program achieves 200% productivity boost

Saudi honeybee program achieves 200% productivity boost

RIYADH: The honeybee breeding program — spearheaded by the Sustainable Agricultural Rural Development Program “Saudi Reef” in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture — is poised to make a substantial impact on bee populations.

A select group of model beekeepers has achieved an impressive 200 percent increase in productivity by implementing the program.

According to the “Saudi Reef” program, the surge in production is attributed to a strategic focus on expanding queen bee rearing within the breeding and propagation program.

Additionally, the adoption of innovative production techniques and best practices, including hive management and organic beekeeping, has played a key role.

These practices have been documented in a booklet distributed to beekeepers and have yielded significant production boosts in several model farms established by the project.

Expanding on its success, the program plans to roll out projects for “bee queen breeding and nuclei production” across eight centers spanning regions such as Jazan, Najran, Asir, Baha, Makkah, Madinah, Hail and Tabuk.

Each center is expected to produce 5,000 queen bees annually, characterized by purity and high-production specifications.

This will enable beekeepers to expand queen bee breeding and bee colonies while preserving favorable genetic traits for enhanced production and resilience against diseases and environmental factors.

The honeybee development and honey production sector is a key focus of the “Saudi Reef” program. Since its inception, the program has had significant increases in production, enhancing the income and living standards of its beneficiaries.

To increase food security and agricultural self-sufficiency, Saudi Arabia unveiled an ambitious initiative in August last year to produce more than 7,500 tons of honey annually as part of the Saudi Reef.


Makkah expo focuses on next steps for hotel, culinary sectors

Makkah expo focuses on next steps for hotel, culinary sectors
Updated 22 February 2024
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Makkah expo focuses on next steps for hotel, culinary sectors

Makkah expo focuses on next steps for hotel, culinary sectors
  • Saudi employees trained at top schools bringing skills back to the Kingdom

MAKKAH: The Makkah Expo for Hotels and Restaurants, held at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry Exhibition Center, ended on Wednesday evening.

The exhibition’s fifth edition was inaugurated by Vice Chairman of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce Mustafa Rajab and involved officials, business owners and company representatives.

A large number of companies and institutions representing the hotel and culinary sectors, specialized in serving Hajj and Umrah pilgrims and visitors, attended the three-day exhibition, which was held in collaboration with the Unit for Exhibition Organization.

Abdullah Haneef, the acting secretary-general of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce, told Arab News: “The exhibition provided an opportunity to access the best practices in the hotel and restaurant sectors, as it brought together a select group of people specialized in this field in Makkah, a pioneer in the hotel sector field attracting large numbers of visitors from around the world.”

He added that industry officials exchanged business ideas and showcased modern tools and technology, food products and hotel and restaurant supplies, and took part in several accompanying events.

Haneef added: “The exhibition offers an opportunity for investors, interested parties, specialized companies and experts in the hotel and restaurant sector from inside and outside the Kingdom, to display their products to investors and interested individuals and exchange expertise, as well as engage in commercial deals between exhibitors, participants and individuals interested in the hotel and restaurant sector.”

The exhibition also hosted a salon for culinary arts and live cooking demonstrations.

Khalid Al-Ghamdi, an investor in the hotel sector, said that the Saudi industry has begun a strong post-pandemic recovery, and is fulfilling its role in serving visitors.

He added that intensive training programs Saudi employees are undertaking in top international hotel schools are helping them apply their knowledge back in the Kingdom.

Al-Ghamdi said that the restaurant sector is facing significant challenges but also opportunities, including smart digital solutions.

Makkah is one of the most significant and holiest places worldwide, drawing millions of Muslims for religious rituals such as Hajj and Umrah, he added.

The city should therefore focus on enhancing future innovation plans and smart marketing to make the hospitality sector a top performer, through innovative solutions and major investment, he said.


Saudi, French FMs discuss bilateral ties on G20 sidelines

Saudi, French FMs discuss bilateral ties on G20 sidelines
Updated 22 February 2024
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Saudi, French FMs discuss bilateral ties on G20 sidelines

Saudi, French FMs discuss bilateral ties on G20 sidelines
  • Ministers reviewed latest regional and international developments, particularly Israel’s war on Gaza

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan met on Thursday with his French counterpart Stephane Segournet on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Rio de Janeiro.

They discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance them in various fields, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

They also reviewed the latest regional and international developments, particularly Israel’s war on Gaza.

The Kingdom’s Ambassador to Brazil Faisal Ghulam and Walid Al-Smail, assistant director general of the Saudi foreign minister’s office, were also present at the meeting.