US ambassador wishes Saudi astronauts well before space mission

RIYADH: Michael Ratney, the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, has extended a message of support and well wishes to the two Saudi astronauts scheduled to take part in Axiom Mission 2 on Sunday.

Ratney said: “On behalf of the United States government, congratulations on the upcoming Axiom 2 launch that will take Saudi astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al-Qarni, joined by Americans Peggy Whitson and John Shoffner, to the International Space Station.”

The mission is scheduled for 5:37 p.m. (EDT time) on Sunday, according to NASA, and will take female astronaut Barnawi and her colleague Al-Qarni to the International Space Station with astronaut Whitson and business pioneer and pilot Shoffner.

Ratney added: “The United States and Saudi Arabia have been partners in space exploration. Now, the first Saudi female astronaut will travel into space, the result of Saudi Arabia’s remarkable transformation under Vision 2030, and a reflection of our mutual commitment to scientific collaboration in the empowerment of the female workforce.”

The Kingdom signed up to the NASA-led Artemis Accords during President Joe Biden’s visit last July and Barnawi and Al-Qarni completed an intensive nine-month training program in the US to prepare for their mission, the two spending time at Johnson Space Center.

Ratney added: “Our collaboration, along with courage, perseverance, and a spirit of adventure, have made this upcoming launch possible.

“The entire world will be watching SpaceX make its historic journey to the International Space Station.”

In a video created by the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia, Ratney also shed light on Prince Sultan bin Salman’s mission on NASA’s space shuttle in 1985.

He said: “Many people in America probably don’t realize this, but His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman also recorded a flight on Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985.”

Ratney said that the four astronauts on Sunday’s mission were showing young Saudis and Americans that not only can they dream about the stars, but they can also reach them.

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