KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Muslim-majority Malaysia's first astronaut will get guidelines allowing flexibility in praying in zero gravity and eating space meals under Islamic rules, the country space chief said Monday.
The government-prepared advice is for a Malaysian joining a Russian scientific mission on the International Space Station in October, Malaysia's National Space Agency chief Mazlan Othman told The Associated Press.
Officials have previously said an Islamic code of conduct in space is necessary because few Muslims have embarked on such expeditions, and there have been no standardized guidelines for them.
Malaysia's two finalists for the voyage, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and Faiz Khaleed, are now training in Moscow. They were selected from more than 10,000 candidates.
Malaysia held a forum for Islamic scholars in April 2006 to discuss problems Muslim space travelers might face, such as pinpointing the Saudi holy city of Mecca, which Muslims are expected face when they pray five times a day.
The guideline booklet, published this month, says the direction should be determined "according to the capability" of the astronaut.
Those in space during the holy fasting month of Ramadan — when Muslims are required to go without food or water from sunrise to sunset — can choose to fast then or to make up for it when they return, the booklet says.
The first Malaysian astronaut's stint will likely overlap with Ramadan, which starts in mid-September this year.
If Muslim astronauts doubt whether a meal is halal, or prepared according to Islamic rules, they "should consume it only to the extent of restraining hunger," the guidelines say.
The astronaut must be dressed decently whenever in public view, which involves covering at least the portion of the body between the navel and the knees for men. Both of the finalists for Malaysia's first astronaut are males.
Maintaining Islamic beliefs "is mandatory for Muslims in every situation, time and place," Mustafa Abdul Rahman, who heads Malaysia's state-run Department of Islamic Development, said in the guidelines.
"Circumstances on the ISS which are different from circumstances on Earth are not an obstacle for an astronaut to fulfill a Muslim's obligations," he said.
Other Muslims who have gone to space include Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan bin Salman, who went aboard the U.S. shuttle Discovery in 1985, and Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-American telecommunications entrepreneur who went to the ISS in September 2006.