The Saudi girl said she plans to practice zero-gravity space flips with her classmates on her eight-day trip
Watan – Rayana Bernawi is preparing to break several barriers and make history today, Sunday, as she is the first Saudi woman to travel to low Earth orbit and land on the International Space Station (ISS).
Rayana follows in the footsteps of the first Saudi astronaut in setting records, nearly 40 years ago. In 1985, Sultan bin Salman became the first Saudi, Arab, Muslim, and also a member of the royal family to visit space.
Bernawi, a biochemist with nearly a decade of experience in cancer stem cell research, is set to serve as a specialist on the commercial space agency’s Axiom Space 2 mission to conduct stem cell and breast cancer experiments on the International Space Station.
The 33-year-old will be taking Arabic coffee at her expected launch date Sunday to drink aboard the International Space Station, and one of her favorite parts of the mission is teaching the kids.
Saudi astronaut mission
Bernawi said she plans to practice zero-gravity space flips with her colleagues on her eight-day trip.
Bernawi, a professional scientist and researcher, holds a Master’s in Biomedical Sciences from Alfaisal University in Saudi Arabia, and a Bachelors’s in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Otago in New Zealand, according to her Axiom Space profile.
“In particular, I am very excited about the RNA response experiment where we will grow immune cells for the first time in history on the International Space Station,” says the Saudi girl.
Bernawi worked for nine years as a laboratory technician in the Stem Cell and Tissue Reengineering Program at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, and will also conduct research in partnership with the Cedars-Sinai Biomedical Research Center.
“I was the kind of explorer who loves to find answers,” Barnaoui said, and she has had adventures on hiking and rafting trips in New Zealand and Turkey.
The Saudi girl also flew a hang glider and loves to climb mountains. Last year, she conducted centrifuge and hypoxia training in Saudi Arabia, which is used to familiarize the human body with symptoms of zero gravity and higher altitudes with less oxygen.
experiences with children
A large part of Bernawi’s trip will include conducting experiments with children on the ground, and she said that she, along with fellow Saudi astronaut and mission specialist Ali Al-Qarni, will conduct no fewer than 20 experiments, of which 14 will be led by Saudi scientists on the ground.
“We will work to connect children with mathematics, science, and technology to see that they can do more and be confident in themselves. This is one of the goals of the mission,” she said. “One of the goals of the Saudi Space Authority is to develop an interest in space and train individuals for spaceflight.”
These include flying a kite in space and on the ground to compare the difference, as well as heat transfer experiments that convey the same effects as gravity.
Most importantly, Bernawi said, she wants young Saudis and Arabs to see astronauts from the region for the first time, and to show them that Arab men and women can fulfill their space aspirations.
“One night we were supposed to get up a little early to watch the International Space Station fly overhead, for me, that was the moment that made me realize why I was here,” she said, as she felt the gravity of her mission.
This sentiment was heightened by the Saudi government’s announcement of its mission in February, while it was at a training camp in Houston, Texas.
“Seeing people from their region go into space is just so cool for them to understand that this is possible,” she said.
Barnawi is part of a mission led by a woman, former astronaut Peggy Whitson, who will join the astronauts Ali Al-Qarni, a Royal Saudi Air Force fighter pilot who will serve as a mission specialist, and John Shoffner, an American businessman, and lifelong space enthusiast, who will serve as a pilot.
Together, these two missions are Axiom Space’s second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, according to the private space agency.
Initially scheduled for May 8, the launch of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket has been delayed for reasons not specified in a NASA announcement.
The four-man team is scheduled to lift off Sunday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.