Going into the Space – How Our Angkasawan Made It

As you have known, the country’s very first astronaut, Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor has been on the International Space Station (ISS) for about 10 days and is due to be landing back in ocean via a capsule some time in the evening today. (Latest report from The Star is that Dr Sheikh Muszaphar has safely landed via the Soyuz capsule somewhere in the Kazakhstan ocean together with 2 other Russian astronauts).

Only 14 nations have successfully sent their astronauts in the space, and Malaysia added to the latest list, making it the the 15th country. An orthopedic surgeon at Hospital Kebangsaan Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM), Dr Sheikh Muszaphar’s trip is not only to list the country in the space mission, but also carrying out some important laboratory scientific researches back to earth.

Even though many will questions how much exactly Malaysia has spent to get a countryman to space in addition to buying 13 Sukhoi jet fighters from the Russian, many Malaysians aspiring to be astronauts will now think that it is no longer an illusion to have ambition going to the space.

Now, for many of us who can only wish going to the zero gravity space, there are many questions lingering around us on the living in the space and in the ISS (International Space Station).

Going into the Orbit – The Launching

A rocket bearing a name of Soyuz Booster launched Dr Sheikh Muszaphar with 2 other crew members from Kazakhstan on the 12th of October 2007. Built by a Russian firm, the Soyuz Booster was considered one of the most reliable space launch vehicles ever built, with more than 1,700 successful flight to space record. It was the rocket that brought the very first human, Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961. 20 engine rockets will fire simultaneously, creating a massive 200 tonnes of force that set the Soyuz Booster in motion, and will reach the orbit in less than 10 minutes.

The Soyuz Booster will dock at the ISS or the International Space Station, which is at the moment dubbed as the most complex engineering design ever built by human kind. The ISS is yet to be fully completed, and once completed, it will occupy a space as large as a football field, consisting a number of laboratory modules to conduct research that supports micro gravity environment. The ISS orbits earch once every 90 minutes, and travels at a speed of 28,000 km per hour. Such speed is necessary to keep the space station on the orbit as any speed lower than 28,000km per hour will make the gravity pull the station back crashing to earth.

Eating on the Space

The astronauts will consume specially prepared food in the space as any liquid or crumbs of food will float freely inside the cabin. But that did not stop Dr Sheikh Muszaphar from bringing some Malaysian delicacies e.g. nasi beriyani, satay and so on to be enjoyed together with the crew members and celebrating the Hari Raya on the space. Surely eating in space can both be fun and frustrating. Conventional eating utensils e.g. spoon, fork and knife are used for the meal. You’d probably have seen the live demonstration by our dear angkasawan on the TV, drinking liquid via a spoon. Utensils and food trays are cleaned at a hygiene corner with pre-moistened towels.

How Does Toilet Work on the Space?

Off course, digestion of food will be followed with waste disposal, both liquid and solid. I know this will lead to you questioning,

“How do I my business there?”

Angkasawan Malaysia - Dr Sheikh Muszaphar ShukorI am sure Dr Sheikh Muszaphar will be bombarded with this question from those who are more interested to know how to do the no-2 rather than knowing every thing else which are more important. So let us let him explain that. Principally, the toilet they use looks similar to a western style toilet that we use on earth. However, there is a slight difference. The astronauts fasten their bodies to the toilet, so that, they won’t float away. They then use a vacuum-cleaner-like machine to suck up the wastes. The wastes are then vacuum-dried. Don’t be surprised to know that some of the liquid waste is processed back into pure water for later consumption.

Being a Muslim, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar needs to carry out his obligation e.g. the 5 times daily prayer (salat). The ablution and the salat cannot be done as normally as in the earth, hence they are done according to a guide provided by JAKIM, Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia. It is a 18-page of booklet which tells a Muslim how to carry out his religious duties on the space which set to become a guide for other Muslim astronauts.

I think I better stop here. As our angkasawan is back on earth, I am sure we will get our share of stories from Dr Sheikh Muszaphar himself his trip to and back from the space. Congratulations. Malaysia Boleh.

[tags] program angkasawan malaysia, dr sheikh muszaphar, malaysia astronaut [/tags]

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