Saudi astronauts return to kingdom after successful space mission

Rayyanah Barnawi, 33, and Ali Al Qarni, 31, returned to Earth last week from their historic trip

Four Saudi astronauts have arrived in Riyadh on Friday night after a successful mission in which two of them become the first from the kingdom to spend time on the International Space Station.

Rayyanah Barnawi, 33, and Ali Al Qarni, 31, returned to Earth last week from their historic trip to space after spending eight days on the ISS. Ali Alghamdi, 31, and Mariam Fardous, 38 were the back-up astronauts for the mission.

The four were received at the King Khaled International Airport by Abdullah Al Swaha, chairman of the Saudi Space Agency, Chief of General Staff Lt-Gen Fayyad Al Ruwaili and other senior officials.

“The scientific mission will be of significant benefit to humanity and will ensure the kingdom leading roles and an avant-garde position in space exploration,” the Saudi Space Agency said.

The agency credited the support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the achievements of the Saudi space mission, which it said was a “source of pride for the nation”.

Ms Barnawi and Mr Al Qarni returned to Earth on May 31 from the ISS, where they conducted 14 research experiments on microgravity, three of which were kite experiments with 12,000 school students from 47 locations across the kingdom via satellite.

Their trip came nearly 40 years after the kingdom sent its first citizen to space, when Price Sultan bin Salman travelled on Nasa's Space Shuttle.

Updated: June 17, 2023, 7:39 AM