How to watch Saudi Arabia's two astronauts return to Earth today

Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al Qarni will have spent eight days on the International Space Station

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Two Saudi astronauts are set to return to Earth today, after spending eight days on the International Space Station carrying out several science experiments.

Rayyanah Barnawi, 33, made history as the first Arab woman to go on a space mission when she and her colleague, Ali Al Qarni, 31, headed to the ISS on a SpaceX rocket on May 22.

They were the first Saudis to go to space in about 40 years, after Prince Sultan bin Salman's trip on-board a Nasa space shuttle in 1985.

Ms Barnawi and Mr Al Qarni, along with two American astronauts, will undock from the orbiting outpost at 7.05pm, GST.

“The four-member multinational astronaut crew is scheduled to undock no earlier than 11.05am EDT Tuesday, May 30, from the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module in a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to begin the journey home and splashdown off the coast of Florida,” Nasa said.

How to watch

A farewell ceremony for the Saudi astronauts took place on-board the ISS on Monday evening. It was streamed live by Axiom Space – the Houston company that helped to arrange the private trip.

Nasa, SpaceX and Axiom Space will also live-stream the astronauts' departure on their websites and social media channels.

The Nasa broadcast will begin at 5pm on Tuesday, when the closure of the Dragon spacecraft's hatch will take place.

The capsule is scheduled to undock from the ISS at 7.05pm.

Axiom Space will resume the broadcast when splashdown takes place, which could be about 10 hours later. The exact time will be announced by SpaceX, closer to when it is happening.

Saudi and UAE astronauts teamed up

During their stay on the ISS, the two Saudis worked together with UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, who is there on a six-month mission.

Ms Barnawi, a research scientist, was assigned a few studies on life sciences, including research on stem and immune cells.

“Life science for the benefit of human beings living on and off the Earth once again filled the research schedule aboard the International Space Station for the Expedition 69 and Axiom Mission-2 crew members,” Nasa said.

“Al Neyadi partnered with Barnawi during the morning treating human cell samples inside the Kibo laboratory module’s Life Science Glovebox for a study observing their inflammatory response to microgravity.”

Stunning views from the station

Ms Barnawi and Mr Al Qarni have been posting several images on social media of their home country that they captured from the station.

“The whole kingdom is shining. Here, you can see Makkah,” she said in the video posted on her Twitter account on Friday.

Earlier this week, the history-making space explorer also posted an image of herself wearing her grandmother's earrings on-board the orbiting laboratory.

Mr Al Qarni posted a night time image of Riyadh on Sunday.

“Good evening, people of Riyadh. This is a photo I took of our capital from the ISS,” he tweeted.

The Saudi Space Commission – the kingdom's space agency – hopes that this would be the first of many space missions by Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom announced a long-term astronaut programme last year, with citizens currently in its astronaut corps.

Updated: May 30, 2023, 3:15 AM