Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor (born Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Al Masrie bin Sheikh Mustapha on July 27, 1972) is a Malaysian orthopaedic surgeon and was the first Malaysian to go into space. He was launched to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz TMA-11 with the Expedition 16 crew on October 10, 2007.
Sheikh Muszaphar was born in Kuala Lumpur and attended high school at Maktab Rendah Sains, MARA in Muar. He is the son of homeroom Ustaz Muhaidin. He then earned a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery degree from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, India. He was pursuing his Masters of Surgery in Orthopaedic Surgery at University Kebangsaan Malaysia when he joined the Angkasawan program. Hence he never completed his Masters. He failed in his first attempt but never attempted to resit in order to be a full-pledge surgeon.
Sheikh Muszaphar is a medical officer, and a university medical officer in medicine at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. In 1998, Sheikh Muszaphar worked at Hospital Seremban, followed by a move to Kuala Lumpur General Hospital in 1999, and was on staff at Hospital Selayang from 2000 through 2001. Sheikh Muszaphar is also a part-time model
Sheikh Muszaphar and three other finalists were selected at the beginning of 2006 for the Malaysian Angkasawan spaceflight program. The program arose after Russia agreed to transport one Malaysian to the ISS as part of a multi-billion purchase of 18 Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKM fighter jets by Malaysia. After completing initial training at Star City in Russia, Sheikh Muszaphar and Faiz Khaleed were selected to undergo an 18-month training program in Russia, at the end of which Sheikh Muszaphar was chosen as the prime crew member, while Faiz Khaleed served as back-up. Following the final medical tests and training examinations, on September 17, it was announced that Sheikh Muszaphar would be flying on the Soyuz TMA-11 mission.
During a NASA news conference with the Expedition 16 crew on July 23, 2007, and news conferences following his selection, Sheikh Muszaphar said he hoped to be able to take various live cell cultures to study during his flight.
Flying as a guest of the Russian government, Sheikh Muszaphar’s role aboard Soyuz and the ISS is referred to as a spaceflight participant in English-language Russian Federal Space Agency and NASA documents and press briefings.
Speaking to Malaysian media outlets, Alexander Karchava, the Russian ambassador to Malaysia, stated that Sheikh Muszaphar is a “fully-fledged cosmonaut”. In an interview with the Malaysian Star newspaper, Robert Gibson, a retired NASA astronaut, shared his opinion that Sheikh Muszaphar is fully qualified as an astronaut, and as such, he should be called one. Gibson also said he regarded Sheikh Muszaphar as a peer.
Soyuz TMA-11 carrying Whitson, Malenchenko, and Sheikh Muszaphar, successfully launched at 13:22 UTC, Wednesday, October 10, 2007.
After 11 days in space, Sheikh Muszaphar boarded Soyuz TMA-10 for his return. TMA-10 undocked from the ISS at 07:14 UTC on October 21, and deorbit occurred at 09:47. During atmospheric re-entry, the spacecraft transitioned to a ballistic reentry, resulting in it landing west of Arkalyk, approximately 340 km (210 mi) northwest of the intended Kazakhstan landing site. The trajectory was reported by the crew as soon as they came out of the communications blackout caused by plasma surrounding the spacecraft. A ballistic trajectory is a backup re-entry mode that takes over if something fails during normal re-entry. A Commission of Inquiry determined that the ballistic re-entry was caused by damage to a cable in the spacecraft’s control panel, which connected the control panel with the Soyuz descent equipment. Landing occurred at 10:36 GMT.
Sheikh Muszaphar performed experiments on board the International Space Station relating to the characteristics and growth of liver cancer and leukemia cells, the crystallisation of various proteins and microbes in space.
The experiments relating to liver cancer, leukemia cells and microbes will benefit general science and medical research, while the experiments relating to the crystallisation of proteins, lipases in this case, will directly benefit local industries.
Lipase are a type of protein enzymes used in the manufacturing of a diverse range of products from textiles to cosmetics, and the opportunity to grow these in space will mean a possibility for Malaysian scientists to take a crack at an industry worth some USD2.2bil (MYR7.7bil) worldwide by producing these locally.
Since Sheikh Muszaphar is a Muslim, and as his time in space coincided with the last part of Ramadan, the Islamic National Fatwa Council drew up the first comprehensive guidebook for Muslims in space. The 18-page guidebook is titled “Guidelines for Performing Islamic Rites (Ibadah) at the International Space Station”, and details issues such as how to pray in a low-gravity environment, how to locate Mecca from the ISS, how to determine prayer times, and issues surrounding fasting. The orbit of the ISS results in one day/night cycle every 90 minutes, so the issues of fasting during Ramadan are also addressed. The guidebook will be translated into Russian, Arabic, and English. Anan C. Mohd, from Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development said that fasting while traveling is optional, so Sheikh Muszaphar could choose what he would like to do, but if he did decide to fast in space, the times would be centered around local time in Baikonur, where the launch takes place. Sheikh Muszaphar celebrated Eid ul-Fitr aboard the station, and packed some satay and cookies to hand out to the rest of the crew on October 13, 2007 to mark the end of Ramadan.