Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Space, A Dilemma For Muslim Astronauts

Muslim scientists and scholars will be discussing Islam and life in space during a two-day conference which opens in Malaysia today. The meeting aims to answer some of the questions faced by would-be Muslim astronauts about how to meet the requirements of their faith while in orbit. Malaysia is due to send an astronaut into space with the Russians next year and it is almost certain that the country's first spaceman will be a Muslim.
That raises plenty of questions. For instance, water is a precious commodity in space and Muslims must wash before they pray. Likewise, the faithful face Mecca while at prayer but that will involve trying to pinpoint a moving target while in zero gravity. Prayer times for Muslims are linked to the times of the sunrise and sunset, but in orbit the sun appears to rise and set more than 12 times a day. Malaysia's Science Ministry has called together a group of experts to thrash out all these and more in what has been billed as the first serious discussion of the issues.