Space Race, Religion, And Creed
For Earthbound Muslims, the beginning of Ramadan this week marks a period of fasting from sunrise until sunset — but for Emirati astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, who will be aboard the International Space Station for another five months, it's a somewhat different question.
As CNN reports, Alneyadi — who will see the sun rise and set a whopping 16 times per day — reasons that his journey off world means he can lean into an exemption in which Muslims who are traveling during Ramadan are allowed to not fast.
"We can actually break fast," the Emirati told reporters during a January press conference. "It’s not compulsory."
He added that "fasting is not compulsory if you’re feeling not well."
"So in that regard — anything that can jeopardize the mission or maybe put the crew member at risk — we’re actually allowed to eat sufficient food to prevent any escalation of lack of food or nutrition or hydration," Alneyadi said.
Ghost Of Ramadan Past
Though he's one of only a handful of Muslims to go to space, the Emirati astronaut's Ramadan situation is not a first on the ISS — that distinction goes to Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a Malaysian astronaut who got special exemptions from his country's Islamic council to either postpone his fast until he returned back to Earth and from having to kneel while praying, which for obvious reasons would be difficult in microgravity.
As for Alneyadi, the answer to his questions is, like many matters of faith, open-ended.
"We’ll wait and see how it goes," the Emirati astronaut told reporters back in January.
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