Monday, October 08, 2007

Malaysia Issues Religious Guidelines For Muslim Astronaut's Flight This Week

If all goes as planned, on Wednesday Russia will launch a Soyuz spacecraft which will fly to the International Space Station. On board will be Malaysia's first astronaut-- and only the second Muslim to fly in space. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor will be accompanied by Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko and American Peggy Whitson. (AFP). Muszaphar's flight has attracted particular attention because it will take place during Ramadan, and Muszaphar says he wants to carry out as many of his religious obligations as possible. So Malaysia's Islamic Development Department has come up with a book, titled Guidelines for Performing Islamic Rites at the International Space Station. (The Star.) An article published in Wired last month outlines some of the challenges faced in adapting earthbound rituals in space. For example, how does an astronaut face Mecca while praying? Many other challenges are also presented in adapting prayer rituals to outer space. The Guidelines (.doc file) set out various adaptations that an astronaut may follow. For example, prayer times are to be based on a 24-hour period and determined in accordance with the time zone at the port from which the launch takes place.