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Rayyanah Barnawi Is Saudi Arabia’s First Female Astronaut!

Rayyanah Barnawi is a biomedical researcher and the first female astronaut from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia who will be sent into space.

Rayyanah Barnawi is a biomedical researcher from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, she is the first female astronaut from her kingdom who will be sent into space.

On 16th June 1963, a Vostok spaceship helmed by Valentina Tereshkova took off to orbit the Earth. Twenty-six-year-old Valentina orbited the Earth for forty-eight hours. Valentina Tereshkova went down in the history books as the first woman astronaut and till now, she remains the only woman to go on a solo mission.

Valentina Tereshkova broke the space barrier for women. Since then, many other women have flown into space. According to statistics, out of the six hundred and twenty people who have done space travel, about seventy-three have been women.

These include Svetlana Savitskaya (the second woman in space in 1982), Sally Ride (the first American woman astronaut in 1983), Kalpana Chawla (the first Indian-American), Peggy Whitson who spent a whopping 665 cumulative days in space, the longest for an American astronaut), Christina Koch (the longest extended stay in space by a woman at 328 days).

A new name will soon be added to this list.

The name of Rayyanah Barnawi

Thirty-three-year-old Rayyanah Barnawi is a biomedical researcher with over nine years of experience in cancer stem-cell research. She will be going on a ten-day mission to Internation Space Station (ISS) as a crew member of the AX-2 mission.

She will be involved in conducting mission experiments while on the space station. But more importantly, Rayyanah Barnawi will be the first Saudi Arabian woman astronaut.

When I moved to the Middle East twenty years ago, Saudi Arabia was a conservative-closed Kingdom. Women did not have many rights and were dependent upon their male guardians. But in the past few years, winds of modernity have started sweeping through Saudi Arabia.

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The wave of progress

  • In June 2018, a landmark decree was passed that allowed women to drive in Saudi Arabia. A right that had been denied to them earlier.
  • In August 2019, in another major breakthrough, women over the age of twenty-one could apply for a passport and travel abroad without needing a male guardian’s permission.
  • Since 2019, hijab is also no longer mandatory (though women are still advised to dress modestly).

The path of change is difficult and long, but not impossible

Though there is still a long way to go on women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, Rayyanah Barnawi becoming the first woman astronaut is a step in the right direction. Little girls of the Arab world will be empowered by seeing Rayyanah take steps into a field dominated by men. It empowers the women, telling them that even space is no longer out of reach for them.

For far too long, women of the world have followed the dictates of men. But when one of the world’s most conservative nations decides to send a woman to space, the world must take notice.

The world must realize that women cannot be chained to homes and hearths. They are now ready to conquer the skies.

Image source: from pixabay, and twitter page @saudispace, edited on CanvaPro

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My Motto is you can learn anything from books! I am an engineer turned SAHM turned book blogger. I love to read, talk and write about books. I am passionate about instilling a love for read more...

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