Good morning. Welcome aboard to the 239 of you who have signed up in the past week. It’s great to see the Payload squad continue to grow.
And we’re wishing good luck to the Ax-2 crew getting ready for their launch on Sunday!
In today's edition...
🧑🚀 First Saudi ISS visit
🗑️ G7 speaks on orbital debris
💫 Payload's picks
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Saudi Arabia Will Make History With Ax-2 Mission
Image: Saudi Press Agency
Two Saudi Arabian astronauts are expected to launch to the ISS this Sunday, marking a historic first for the Kingdom and highlighting its aspirations to become a global space power.
Ali AlQarni, a pilot, and Rayyanah Barnawi, a biomedical researcher, will make up half of the four-member crew on Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission. They will be the first Saudi astronauts to visit the ISS, with Barnawi becoming the first Arab woman aboard the station and the first Saudi woman in space.
During their 10-day stay, their research will cover diverse areas including cancer prediction, in-space bioengineering, and microgravity's effects on stem cell production and human physiology.
Make it rain: One experiment the Saudis will carry out aboard the station uses a reaction chamber to simulate cloud-seeding techniques employed in arid, desert climates like Saudi Arabia to increase precipitation. By examining weather modification in low-gravity conditions, the research aims to advance technology for generating artificial rain on other planets.
A date to remember: Bringing Saudi coffee and dates to share, AlQarni and Barnawi will be welcomed to the ISS by Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, who arrived in March in a Crew-6 seat arranged by Axiom. This joint representation underscores the growing influence of Gulf nations in the global space arena. In a press briefing, AlQarni said the occasion “shows the Arab world we are holding hands and working together for the betterment of humanity.”
Even as other Arab countries increase activities and investments in space exploration, Saudi Arabia and the UAE stand out with their substantial commitment of resources. This dedication reflects their shared objective to be acknowledged as regional space powerhouses catalyzing the growth of the Arab space sector.
The UAE is a newcomer to space exploration, but is swiftly establishing itself as a prominent player. Recognized as the Arab world’s leading space program, the country has sent two astronauts into space, launched spacecraft to Mars and the Moon, deployed domestically built satellites, and has a long-term lunar program.
Saudi Arabia, though in an earlier stage of space sector development, has made significant investments and achieved notable milestones, aligning with its strategy to diversify its economy away from oil. With a longstanding involvement in satellite technology, the establishment of the Saudi Space Commission, and forging international partnerships, including contributing an optical camera to China’s mission to the far side of the Moon, Saudi Arabia is resolute in its pursuit of becoming a significant force in space exploration.
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G7 Deems Space Debris an ‘Urgent’ Problem
Image: G7 Hiroshima host photographer
The growing amount of space debris in orbit is an “urgent issue” that must be addressed by international organizations, according to the G7 nations meeting in Japan this weekend.
“We strongly encourage further research and development of orbital debris mitigation and remediation technologies,” officials wrote in the communiqué from the G7 Science and Technology Ministers’ Meeting, which concluded ahead of the full summit. “We also strongly encourage development of national guidelines and regulatory frameworks for remediation that align with guidelines developed within UN COPUOS.”
The path forward: The communiqué is not a binding document, but the nations still committed in it to take some steps to support debris mitigation, including:
Following guidelines set by international bodies such as the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space or the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee
Sharing national best practices on SSA and reducing debris
Supporting work to draft new debris mitigation regulations
On the world stage: While space did get a shoutout in the science ministers’ readout, it’s unlikely to play a key role in the discussion at the broader G7 summit, where world leaders are expected to focus on Russia’s war in Ukraine, China’s rise, climate change, nuclear disarmament, and resiliency in food and supply chains.
"It’s absolutely essential for space to be addressed in major global fora like the G7 and NATO," according to Benjamin Schmitt, a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and cofounder of Duke’s Space Diplomacy Lab, who said that "space needs to play a more prominent role in international meetings like the G7 in the future, especially given the massive scale of the contemporary space economy."
A now problem: Giovanni Zanalda, a professor at Duke and Schmitt’s fellow cofounder at the Space Diplomacy Lab agreed, pointing out that problems surrounding space debris and norms of behavior in orbit are not things that should be pushed off to deal with later.
“Space requires such a long-term horizon that sometimes from a political point of view it is not a priority. But it should be a priority because the more we wait…[problems are] getting worse and worse. And the worse they become, the more difficult it is to address them,” he said. "It’s a matter of making sure people and institutions know that space is not the future, it’s already the present.”
In Other News
Space Command is working on a way to use AI to track the growing number of objects in space.
Alabama officials shoot back over reports that Space Command HQ may not move to the state over abortion restrictions.
The Space Force is looking at ways to ease launch congestion as Cape Canaveral reaches its limit.
John Deere’s success on Earth depends on investment in orbit.
CAPSTONE, a NASA cubesat in lunar orbit, successfully tested its navigation tech. The probe serves as a pathfinder for the Lunar Gateway.
SpaceX rolled out Starship 25 to a suborbital pad at Starbase ahead of a six engine static fire test.
📖 What we’re reading:
NASA seeks congressional support for Artemis funding (3 min read).
The Atlantic has a deep look at exoplanets, and the fact that other galaxies may have much in common with our own (5 min read).
Parallax dives into stubborn supernovas that refuse a peaceful death (2 min read).
Polaris looked at the future of the National Space Council with Chirag Parikh, the panel’s executive secretary (3 min read).
👀 What we’re watching:
A cargo spacecraft docks with the Tiangong space station bearing fresh fruit gifts (2 min watch).
The Human to Mars Summit held three days of meetings on the future of visiting and living on the Red Planet. The panels and keynotes were posted online (9 hours).
🏆 ICYMI, here were the three most-read stories on our website this week:
The View from DC
Image: Jacqueline Feldscher/Payload
The Artemis 2 crew spoke with reporters on Capitol Hill after days of meetings in Washington, drumming up excitement for the Moon mission.