Religion in space

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Religious adherence in outer space poses unique challenges and opportunities for practitioners.

The Apollo 8 Genesis reading.
A Russian Orthodox priest blesses the Soyuz rocket for ISS Expedition 31

Prohibition[edit]

In February 2014 the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment (GAIAE) issued a fatwa forbidding devout Muslims from participating as crew members in Mars One's proposed one way mission to Mars. Speaking for the clerical group, Dr Farooq Hamada explained that, "Protecting life against all possible dangers and keeping it safe is an issue agreed upon by all religions and is clearly stipulated in verse 4/29 of the Holy Quran: Do not kill yourselves or one another. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful."[1]

Religiosity in space[edit]

Astronauts, cosmonauts, and spaceflight participants have observed their religions while in space, sometimes publicly, sometimes privately. On Christmas Eve, 1968 astronaut Frank Borman read from the Book of Genesis as Apollo 8 orbited the moon.[2] Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, a Presbyterian, performed a communion service for himself using a kit provided by his church. Aldrin had told flight director Chris Kraft of his plans and intended to broadcast the service back to Earth but opted not to at the request of Deke Slayton, due to the continuing controversy over Apollo 8's reading.[3]

An example of Judaism in space occurred in 2003, when an Israeli microfilm bible and a written copy of the Shabbat kiddush were brought into orbit by Ilan Ramon.[4]

Muslims aboard the International Space Station (ISS) struggled with fulfilling their religious obligations including kneeling and facing Mecca to pray in microgravity traveling at thousands of miles per hour. The issue first came up when Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a Saudi prince, flew aboard STS-51-G and again when Anousheh Ansari flew as a tourist to the International space station.[5] In preparation for Malaysia's Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor trip to the ISS in 2007, the National Fatwa Council created "Muslim Obligations in the International Space Station" outlining permissible modifications to rituals such as kneeling when praying (not required in space), facing Mecca when praying (left to the astronaut's best abilities at the start of prayer), and washing (a wet towel will suffice).[6]

On STS-128 astronaut Patrick Forrester brought a fragment of a Missionary Aviation Fellowship aircraft which crashed in Ecuador in 1956.[7]

Russian Orthodox Christmas was celebrated on the International Space Station, on January 7, 2011.[8] Cosmonauts had the day off, but one of the other crew tweeted, "Merry Christmas to all Russia."[8] The whole crew also celebrated on December 25, two weeks prior.[8]

In May 2011, Pope Benedict XVI of the Catholic church talked to the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavor while it was in Earth orbit.[4]

A microfilm Bible that had been to the surface of the Moon was auctioned off in 2011.[9] It was a King James Version created after three astronauts lost their lives in the Apollo 1 fire.[9] Edward White, one of the astronauts who perished, had wanted to take a Bible to the Moon.[9]

ISS crew with festive holiday hats aboard Zvezda service module of ISS
Christmas morning in Node 3

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Muslim clerics issue fatwa banning the devout from Mars One 'suicide' mission". The A Register. Feb . 22, 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  2. ^ Haney, Paul (August 10, 2009). "Further reflections on a golden space era". Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  3. ^ "Communion in Space". Guideposts. October 1970. 
  4. ^ a b Thom Patterson - The surprising history of prayer in space (2011)- CNN
  5. ^ Gartner, Bettina (October 10, 2007). "How does an Islamic astronaut face Mecca in orbit?". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  6. ^ "Astronaut to grapple with daily prayer ritual". MSNBC. Sept . 20, 2007. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  7. ^ King, Robert (August 24, 2009). "Martyred mission aviator's plane to fly again -- into space". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 2009-09-03. [dead link]
  8. ^ a b c Tariq Malik - Christmas Comes Twice for Russians in Space (07 January 2011) - SPACE.com
  9. ^ a b c Nicola Menzie - NASA's First Bible on the Moon to Be Auctioned Off (2011) - Christian Post Reporter

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