The countdown has begun to send the first two Saudi astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Falcon 9 rocket of the American company SpaceX will launch from the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, USA, at 17:37 (local time, 00:37 Greek time) carrying to the ISS scientist Rayana Barnawi and fighter pilot Ali Al- Carney.

“I feel great joy and honor to be the first female astronaut from Saudi Arabia,” Barnawi said a few days ago at a press conference.

For his part, Ali Al-Qarni explained that he always wanted to explore the unknown while admiring the sky and the stars. “So it’s a great opportunity for me to satisfy my passion and this time fly to the stars,” said the Saudi Air Force pilot.

The head of the Ax-2 mission organized by the American company Axiom Space is Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who will travel for the fourth time to the International Space Station. The captain of the expedition is the American John Soffner.

The four-member crew of Ax-2 will remain 10 days at the International Space Station where it is expected to arrive around 04:30 on Monday morning (Greece time). One of the experiments he will perform concerns the study of stem cells in weightlessness.

On the International Space Station they will meet three Russians, three Americans and Sultan al-Neyadi of the United Arab Emirates, who last month became the first Arab astronaut to perform a spacewalk.

However, it is not the first time that a Saudi will participate in a space mission. In 1985 Prince Sultan bin Salman traveled on the space shuttle Discovery.

The Saudi Space Commission (SSC) was created five years ago and the program for astronaut missions into space was launched last year.