Two Saudi astronauts took a private flight on a multimillion-dollar SpaceX flight, according to Newsmax. This is the first time in decades the Saudis have flown to the International Space Station just outside Earth’s atmosphere. The first and last time was in 1985 when Saudi Arabia launched a shuttle. When they get to the space station they will be met by someone from the United Arab Emirates.
A businessman from the United States was also on board. John Shoffner is the owner of a European car racing team. The team also includes Peggy Whitson, the first female commander of the station who holds the record for spending the most time in space. She is currently at 665 days. The team will return Monday after spending a week.
The flight was sponsored by the Saudi government and chose two credentialed persons to take the trip, including Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali al-Qarni. Barnawi is a stem-cell researcher and is the first woman to have been in space in the country. Ali is a fighter pilot from the Royal Saudi Air Force.
Barnawi expressed her joy in participating and said that it was a “dream come true.” She claimed that if she and Ali can do something like this, then others can as well.
The trip is allegedly expensive, but the company that organized the trip, Axiom Space, will not disclose how much the Saudi government and businessman paid. Tickets were previously seen at $55 million. NASA includes an itinerary of what will be needed, including, $2,000 for food and $1,500 for sleeping bags and other gear.
NASA has recently opened itself up to these kinds of trips, dubbed as “space tourism.” It is keeping the missions capped at two per year. Russia has conducted similar trips here and there for decades. Joel Montalbano, NASA’s space station program manager says that his job is to expand this event across the globe.