ABDUL AHAD MOHMAND
Abdul Ahad Momand (born January 1, 1959) is a former Afghan Air Force aviator who became the first Afghan in space when he spent nine days aboard the Mir space station in 1988 as a Intercosmos Research Cosmonaut. He was the fourth Muslim to reach space, after Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Muhammed Faris, and Musa Manarov.
Momand was born on January 1, 1959, in Sardah, Ghazni, Afghanistan. He belongs to the Mohmand tribe of the Pashtun ethnic group. Momand graduated from the Polytechnical University of Kabul and then from the Air Force Academy. He served in the Afghan Air Force and later trained in the Soviet Union as a pilot and a professional astronaut.
Along with Commander Vladimir Lyakhov and Flight Engineer Valery Polyakov, Momand was part of the Soyuz TM-6 three-man crew, which launched at 04:23 GMT August 29, 1988. Momand’s inclusion in the mission was a significant symbol during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
During his nine days stay on the Mir space station, Momand took photographs of his country, participated in astrophysical, medical and biological experiments. He also spoke to Afghanistan’s president, Mohammed Najibullah, and brewed Afghan tea for the crew.
Lyakhov and Momand returned to Earth aboard Soyuz TM-5. The September 6 planned landing of Soyuz TM-5 was delayed because of mechanical complications on the Mir. Radio Moscow reassured listeners that Lyakhov and Momand were fine and in touch with Mission Control. A recording was played of them laughing. A day later, the retro-fire was successful, and at 00:50 GMT Soyuz TM-5 landed near Dzhezkazgan. During touchdown there was no live radio coverage, only live television pictures of Mission Control.
Momand was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union on September 7, 1988.
During his flight to space, his mother was extremely distraught over the safety of her son. Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah called Momand’s mother into the President’s office and arranged an audio/video conference between Momand and her. By this event, Pashto was considered the fourth spoken language in space.
Following the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, Momand fled to Germany in 1992 and applied for asylum, becoming a German citizen in 2003. He works in printing services and lives in Ostfildern near Stuttgart.