Rayyanah Barnawi, a Saudi astronaut, made history as the first Arab woman to journey into space alongside Ali al-Qarni.
The Saudi Space Commission expressed immense pride in Barnawi who ventured into space this week with Qarni, stating that this eight-day mission signifies a new era for the Kingdom’s ambitions in space exploration.
Dr. Haithem Altwaijri, an advisor to the Saudi Space Commission, compared Barnawi to Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, the Russian engineer who became the first woman to fly in space on June 16, 1963. Altwaijri referred to Barnawi as the “Valentina of the Arab World” and highlighted Tereshkova’s groundbreaking achievement as an inspiration for women worldwide.
“If you look at history, in 1963 we had Valentina Tereshkova, the first female astronaut to space and she was an inspiration to all the females throughout the world. She demonstrated that females could do anything that a man could do. Rayyanah is our Valentina for the Arab world – she will be able to inspire all females in all the Arab nations to be able to look at the stars and say ‘I can reach them,” the advisor said to Al Arabiya English.
Barnawi holds the distinction of being the first Saudi female astronaut to reach space and one of the early Saudi astronauts to visit the International Space Station (ISS).
Born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in September 1988, she possesses multiple degrees in biomedical sciences. Barnawi obtained a Master of Biomedical Sciences from Alfaisal University in Saudi Arabia and a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences from Otago University in New Zealand.
For over nine years, Barnawi worked as a research lab technician for the Stem Cell and Tissue Re-engineering Program at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Her role involved various technical and research responsibilities.
Beyond her professional pursuits, Rayyanah Barnawi indulges her passion for outdoor activities and sports, engaging in adventurous endeavors around the world. She has undertaken scuba diving in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, as well as hang gliding, ledge swinging, and river activities in New Zealand. She has also enjoyed hiking, rafting, and other experiences in Türkiye.
In 2014, Rayyanah Barnawi participated in wingsuit flying training in Dubai, and in 2022, she engaged in centrifuge and hypoxic training in Saudi Arabia.