“Najmonaut” is the new term used to define Arab astronauts who travel into space. Different countries define their astronauts in their localized languages, former Soviet Union became the first country to name its astronauts as “Cosmonauts” which became a tradition among subsequent space missions by Different countries. Soviet Union coined the word “cosmonaut” affixing Russian word “cosmos” which means space and Greek word “naut” meaning “sailor”. Later Chinese and Indians called their astronauts as “taikonauts” and “vyomanauts” respectively.

Space research exploration and human space flights were one of the important topic of rivalry between United States and Soviet Union in the second half of twentieth century. Soviet Union was not ready to accept the word “astronaut” used by NASA.

Arabs in Space

The advent of Arab countries in space exploration has created new dimensions in space exploration. Continuous space programmes for different Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt have led to the formation of new word “Najmonaut” which was made up of two words. The word “najma” means “star” in Arabic and Greek word “naut” which means “sailor”. Prince Sultan bin Salman Al Saud was the first Arab and Muslim in space. He was onboard of STS-51-G, the flight of NASA’s space shuttle programme in 1985. He flew as a payload specialist. Muhammed Faris from Syria became the second Arab in space. He flew to the Mir orbital space station as research cosmonaut from Soviet Union in 1987. Both Prince Sultan and Muhammed Faris were known as astronaut and cosmonaut respectively.

United Arab Emirates is the new country in space arena. UAE is investing massively in space exploration and it is part of UAE’s long term plan to diversify its economy from oil based economy into a knowledge based economy. After 2010, UAE has undergone through unprecedented innovation in space exploration. In 2019, Hazza Al Mansouri, a fighter pilot of the UAE embarked on a seven day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). He became the first UAE citizen in ISS and space. Sultan Al Neyadi became fourth najmonaut in space and second najmonaut in ISS. He flew in 27, February 2023 for a six months period.

Saudi Arabia is planning a new space mission to to send two najmonauts into ISS in 2023. It plans to send the first Arab woman, Rayyana Barnawi into space along with fellow Saudi Ali Al-Qarni. Saudi plans sending a woman to space will give a new appearance to its ultra-conservative image.

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