10 Muslim Astronauts Who Conquered Space
Space travel is one of the most coveted and sought after feats in the history of mankind. Only a few handful of people have been fortunate enough to traverse the unbounded frontiers and horizons of the outer space. Most of you will be surprised to know that there are quite a few Muslims who have earned the distinct honour of going into space as astronauts. These individuals are a cause for pride for the Muslim Ummah; however, not many of us know about these brilliant men and women. Let’s get to know these high achievers in more depth and detail.
1 – Sultan bin Salman Al Saud
On board the Discovery, Payload Specialist Sultan bin Salman Al Saud, a Saudi Air Force fighter pilot, took off from the Kennedy Space Centre’s Launch Complex 39 on June 17, 1985, to become the first Muslim and Arab astronaut. It was a week long expedition geared towards the deployment of a communications satellite for the Arab Satellite Communications Organization. Prince Sultan travelled 4.67 million kilometers and assisted his French crew member in tests of the effects of spaceflight on human physiology. He ran experiments on the behavior of oil combined with water in weightlessness and also photographed Saudi Arabia on several orbital passes. Sultan bin Salman Al Saud became the first human being to observe Islamic prayers and recite the Holy Quran in zero gravity.
2 – Mohammed Faris
Hailed as the “Neil Armstrong of the Arab World”, Mohammed Faris was the first professional Muslim and Arab spaceman. A pilot in Syrian Air Force, Mohammed Faris flew as Research Cosmonaut in the Interkosmos program on Soyuz TM-3 to the Mir Space Station on July 22, 1987, spending 7 days, 23 hours and 5 minutes in space. He carried out scientific experiments and photographed Syria from space.
3 – Musa Manarov
This Soviet Muslim astronaut spent 541 days in space as flight engineer on Soyuz TM-4 and Soyuz TM-11. During his second flight on Soyuz TM-11, he became the only human being to spend the longest continuous time in space as he remained in space continuously for 175 days 1 hour and 50 minutes. Manarov, during his space excursions, performed 20 hours of spacewalks, observed the earth and worked in space manufacturing.
4 – Abdul Ahad Mohmand
The first Afghan and the fourth Muslim to journey to outer space, Abdul Ahad Mohmand, spent nine days on board the Mir Space Station in 1988 as Interkosmos Research Cosmonaut. He made a telephone call to Afghanistan and used Pashto for the first time in space. He is also believed to be the first Muslim to carry a copy of the Holy Quran into space. During his return journey back to Earth, the computer systems on the Soyuz space-craft malfunctioned and they came within seconds of being trapped in space forever with food and oxygen supplies of just a couple days left. Ahad had to encircle the Earth alone with his flight commander for 24 hours in their tiny landing capsule. However, the flight crew was able to land safely in Kazakhstan.
5 – Toktar Aubakirov
This astronaut from Kazakhstan spent almost eighty days in space in Soyuz TM-13 spacecraft and was blasted off into outer space on October 2, 1991. Toktar conducted scientific research in biotechnology, medicine, metallurgy and the Aral Sea, and participated in astrophysical monitoring of the sky, research of atmosphere and the Earth surface in Kazakhstan.
6 – Talgat Musabayev
Involved in three space flights, Talgat Musabayev is a Kazakh astronaut whose first two space expeditions were two long duration stays aboard the Russian Space Station Mir. His third space travel was to the International Space Station carrying the world’s first space tourist Dennis Tito. His first long duration mission Mir EO-16 was 126 days long as Flight Engineer while the second long duration mission Mir EO-25 was 207 days long.
7 – Salizhan Sharipov
This astronaut from Kyrgyzstan has been to space twice and been involved in a couple of spacewalks. In his first mission, Sharipov served as a mission specialist during which the crew transferred more than 8,000 pounds of scientific equipment, logistical hardware and water from Space Shuttle Endeavour to Mir. He was the flight engineer on Expedition 10 to International Space Station. During his stay, Sharipov conducted several science and human life sciences experiments for the Russian Space Program.
8 – Anousheh Ansari
The first female Iranian Muslim to space, Anousheh Ansari, was the fourth self-funded space traveller and the first self-funded woman to travel to the International Space Station. Ansari lifted off on Soyuz TMA-9 mission on September 18, 2006 from Kazakhstan. During her 8 day stay in the International Space Station, Ansari performed a number of scientific experiments relating to anemia, how changes in muscles affects lower back pain and the effect of space radiation on the space station’s crew members.
9 – Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor
A Malaysian orthopaedic surgeon and the first commercial astronaut, Shukor was launched into space aboard Soyuz TMA-11 with the Expedition 16 crew on October 10, 2007. Sheikh Muszaphar performed experiments on board the International Space Station relating to the characteristics and growth of liver cancer and leukaemia cells, the crystallisation of various proteins and microbes in space. His time in space coincided with the last part of the Holy month of Ramadan and he celebrated Eid al-Fitr in the International Space Station. During his stay in space, Malaysia’s space agency in consensus with Islamic scholars, produced a document underscoring as how to pray in a low-gravity environment, how to locate Mecca from the International Space Station, how to determine prayer times, and issues surrounding fasting.
10 – Aidyn Aimbetov
Third Kazakh and 10th Muslim astronaut to have made an odyssey to space is Aidyn Aimbetov who was launched from Kazakhstan aboard Soyuz TMA-18M for a 10 day mission on September 2, 2015. He conducted environmental and geophysical monitoring, primarily of ecologically critical areas of Kazakhstan, such as the Aral Sea, once the fourth largest lake in the world, which is close to disappearing completely from the world’s map now, and the Caspian Sea. Aside from that, Aimbetov studied the upper atmosphere in storm active areas.