WATCH LIVE: Space station welcomes 2 Saudi visitors, including kingdom’s 1st female astronaut

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UPDATE: The International Space Station rolled out the welcome mat Monday for two Saudi visitors, including the kingdom’s first female astronaut.

SpaceX’s chartered flight arrived at the orbiting lab less than 16 hours after blasting off from Florida. The four guests will spend just over a week there, before returning to Earth in their capsule.

The 270-mile-high (430-kilometer-high) docking puts the space station population at 11, representing not only Saudi Arabia and the U.S., but the United Arab Emirates and Russia. .

Saudi Arabia’s government is picking up the multimillion-dollar tab for its first female astronaut, Rayyanah Barnawi, a stem cell researcher, and fighter pilot Ali al-Qarni.

John Shoffner, a Knoxville, Tennessee, businessman who started a car racing team, is paying his own way. Retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson is their chaperone. She now works for Axiom Space, the Houston company that organized the 10-day trip, its second to the space station.

The company cited ticket prices of $55 million each for last year’s private trip by three businessmen, but won’t say how much the latest seats cost.

Only one other Saudi has flown before in space, a prince who rode on NASA’s shuttle Discovery in 1985.

The Associated Press Contributed to this report.

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(Original Story)

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Axiom Mission 2 will dock at the International Space Station on Monday.

NASA says coverage the docking is scheduled for 8:24 a.m. and coverage will continue through hatch opening at 10:13 a.m., and the crew’s welcoming remarks at 10:45 a.m.

Saudi Arabia’s first astronauts in decades rocketed toward the International Space Station on a chartered multimillion-dollar flight.

The four should reach the space station in their capsule Monday morning; they’ll spend just over a week there before returning home with a splashdown off the Florida coast.

NASA said a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket propelled the company’s Dragon spacecraft carrying Ax-2 crew members Commander Peggy Whitson, Pilot John Shoffner, and Mission Specialists Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi into orbit. Their mission is to conduct scientific research, outreach, and commercial activities on the space station.

The Ax-2 crew will be welcomed aboard the space station by Expedition 69 crew members, including NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Stephen Bowen, and Woody Hoburg, UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Dmitri Petelin, Sergey Prokopyev and Andrey Fedyaev.

Axiom Space astronauts are expected to depart the space station May 30, pending weather, for a return to Earth and splashdown at a landing site off the coast of Florida.

The Associated Press Contributed to this report.


About the Authors:

Ben Spicer is a digital journalist who works the early morning shift for KSAT.