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Muslims in Space

1 - Prince Sultan bin Salman AbdulAziz Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia

1-bSultan bin Salman, one of the many nephews of King Abduallah Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, was the first Muslim in space (as well as the first Arab and the first member of royalty). In 1985, Al-Saud became part of the crew on board the American space shuttle Discovery as a payload specialist. Upon completing his mission, Al-Saud was instrumental in the founding of the Association of Space Explorers, a non-profit organization that brings together astronauts from around the world. He is currently the Secretary-General of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).


 

2 - Muhammed Faris, Syria.

2-bSyrian Muhammed Faris was the second Arab and first Syrian in space. Originally a member of the Syrian Air Force, Faris joined the crew of Russian mission Soyuz TM-3 in July 1987. Faris flew on the mission to the space station Mir and returned on Soyuz TM-2. After the completion of his mission, he was awarded two esteemed titles by the Soviet Union: Hero of the Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin.

 

 

3 - Musa Manarov, Azerbaijan

3-bMusa Manarov traveled to space in December 1987 as part of the Russian Soyuz TM-4 mission to Mir. He would later travel to the station in 1991. The two trips logged Manarov an astounding 541 days (or roughly one and half years) in space, earning him eighth place on the all-time list of time spent in space as of 2006. Manarov was originally a colonel in the Soviet Union’s Air Force and joined his first mission as a flight engineer. The Soyuz TM-4 mission became the longest contiguous space mission once it was completed, lasting an entire year.

 

4 - Abdul Ahad Mohmand, Afghanistan

4-bThe next Muslim in space was Abdul Ahad Mohmand from Afghanistan. Mohmand joined Manarov on the Mir as part of the Soyuz TM-6 mission as a research cosmonaut. Originally a pilot in the Afghan Air Force, Mohmand would later be remembered as a hero for saving his mission from disaster.

 

Upon the completion of their mission on the Mir, when Mohmand and his crew began their return flight to Earth, the capsule of their spacecraft failed to fire sufficiently and prevented the ship from returning to Earth. The decision was made to continue in orbit until more tests could be run. While waiting for directions from Mission Control, Mohmand made a crucial discovery. Using his instincts, he determined that it would be wise to check the ship’s monitors for any indication of what went wrong. He soon realized that the program guiding the reentry phase was still running. Upon reentry to Earth, the Soyuz capsule is no longer needed and is ejected. While waiting for mission control, the program was still counting down to eject the capsule! With less than a minute left before the capsule was to be ejected, Mohmand noticed it and notified the pilot, who shut down the program. Otherwise, the capsule would have been abandoned without its propulsion system, and the crew would have been stranded in space.

 

5 - Tokhtar Aubakirov, Kazakhstan

5-bTokhtar Aubakirov was a member of the Kazakhstan Air Force before being selected as a cosmonaut to go on the Soyuz TM-13 mission, where he spent over eight days in space. Aubakirov is notable as the first Soviet citizen to go into space without being fully certified as a cosmonaut-several other cosmonauts were booked on other missions and the Soviet Union had promised to send a Kazakh man to space as part of an earlier agreement. Aubakirov has since been the Director of the National Aerospace Agency in Kazakhstan and a Member of Kazakhstan’s Parliament.

 
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