Space X launches retired NASA astronaut, businessman, pilot, first Saudi Arabian woman in space 

According to the Associated Press, Saudi Arabia’s first astronauts in decades rocketed toward the International Space Station on a chartered multimillion-dollar flight Sunday. 

SpaceX launched the ticket-holding crew, led by Peggy Whitson, the station’s first female commander with the U.S. record for most accumulated time in space. Also onboard are U.S. businessman and sports car racing team owner John Shoffner; Rayyanah Barnawi, a stem cell researcher and the first woman from Saudi Arabia to go to space; and Ali al-Qarni, a fighter pilot with the Royal Saudi Air Force. 

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. 

It’s the second private flight to the space station organized by Houston-based Axiom Space. The company plans to start adding its own rooms to the station in another few years, eventually removing them to form a stand-alone outpost available for hire. 

Axiom won’t say how much Shoffner and Saudi Arabia are paying for the planned 10-day mission. The company had previously cited a ticket price of $55 million each. NASA’s latest price list shows per-person, per-day charges of $2,000 for food and up to $1,500 for sleeping bags and other gear.  

The guests will have access to most of the station as they conduct experiments, photograph Earth, and chat with schoolchildren back home.