The first Saudi astronauts to head into the stratosphere in decades rocketed toward the International Space Station on a chartered multimillion-dollar SpaceX flight on Sunday, Associated Press reported.
Two Saudis, including the kingdom's first-ever woman in space, teamed up with retired American astronaut Peggy Whitson, who's in charge of the flight, and Tennessee businessman John Shoffner, who owns a sports car racing team.
They're scheduled to arrive Monday and will stay a week before returning.
It’s the second private flight to the space station organized by Houston-based private business Axiom Space.
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Axiom won’t say how much the three "ticketed" passengers are paying for their mission, but the company had previously cited a price of $55 million each, according to AP.
The Saudis, sponsored by their government, are stem cell researcher Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali al-Qarni, a fighter pilot with the Royal Saudi Air Force.
The last time any Saudis headed for space was in 1985 when Prince Sultan bin Salman climbed aboard the Discovery shuttle as a payload specialist. He was also the first Arab and the first Muslim in space.
The Saudi flyers will meet with an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates at the space station.
Axiom was posting live footage inside the space craft on YouTube.
The trip into orbit Sunday was "phenomenal" gushed Whitson, the space station's first female commander.
“Hello from outer space! It feels amazing to be viewing Earth from this capsule,” Barnawi said after settling into orbit.
“This is a dream come true for everyone,” Barnawi said before the flight. “If me and Ali can do it, then [everyone] can do it," she added optimistically.
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