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Muslims in Space

6 - Talgat Musabayev, Kazakhstan

6-bTalgat Musabayev became the second Kazakh Muslim in space when he was a flight engineer of the Soyuz TM-19 mission to the space station Mir in 1994. He would later command to other flights in 1998 and in 2001, the second of which was a historic mission. For the first time, a paying “space tourist” was on board a flight. The Soyuz TM-32 carried Denits Tito, a billionaire businessman, to the International Space Station (ISS), the successor of Mir. Musabayev has made the top fifty list for most time spent in space.

 

7 - Salizhan Sharipov, Russia

7-bSharipov graduated from the Soviet Air-Force in 1987 and was later selected for cosmonaut training by the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC). In 1998, he was part of the STS-89 mission, an eight day mission that brought supplies to the space station Mir. He flew another mission in 2004 that lasted nearly six months in space at the International Space Station. Sharipov is also on the top fifty list for time spent in space (as of 2006); he is the last Muslim on this list to share the honor.

 

8 - Anousheh Ansari, Iran/US

8-bAnousheh Ansari, an Iranian-American, was the fourth self-funded space tourist and the first female space tourist after traveling aboard the Soyuz TMA-9 mission in 2006. She also became the first person to blog in space. Ansari’s love for space exploration from an early age motivated her trip, which received extensive media coverage in both Iran and the United States.

 

Ansari is also known for making a multi-million dollar contribution to the X Prize foundation, which was a prize to be granted to the first non-government organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space. The prize was later named in her honor, and is now referred to as the Ansari X Prize. The prize was won in October 2004 by the Tier One project, which was financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

 

9 - Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, Malaysia

9-bShukor is the first Malaysian and ninth Muslim in space. He is an orthopedic surgeon by trade and was the winner of the Angkasawan program established by Russia and Malaysia. The program was part of an agreement between the two countries that stipulated that Russia would take one Malaysian citizen to space. As the program’s winner, Shukor was part of the Soyuz TMA-10 mission to the International Space Station. Shukor would stay in space for eleven days; he spent much of his time doing medical research on the nature of the growth of liver and leukemia cells and the crystallization of various microbes in space.

 

Shukor’s trip is also of interest because it took place during the last few days of the Muslim holy month, Ramadan. As a result, the National Fatwa Council (Malaysia’s top Islamic body) created a handbook for Muslims in space. The guidebook included how to find the direction of Mecca, when the fasting day starts and ends (the International Space Station has a one day/night cycle of only 90 minutes) and how to pray in low-gravity areas.

 
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