by Cherszy (@cherszy)
He is a Malaysian orthopedic surgeon who was launched into space on the 10th of October back in the year 2007 aboard the Soyuz TMA-11 where he performed experiments on cancer cells as well as on crystallization of certain proteins and microbes, among others.
He experienced space life for a total of 12 days where the sun rose and set every 45 minutes (according to him, that means he had to pray for 80 times a day according to the Muslim tradition).
His first space trip cost almost $25 million – yes, that’s 9 zeros.
He is the face of Malaysia’s prime space project, the Angkasawan program and more importantly, he is the first Southeast Asian in space.
He is Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, and I just had the pleasure of being part of his audience yesterday as he talked about his space flight during a seminar sponsored by the Asia Society Philippines.
He was actually very interesting – funny even – and he really narrated his experience with much gusto that you could hear passion and joy burning in his voice. As he shared his story, he showed us a couple of photos and videos he and his team took while aboard the spaceship as well as during his training. I wish I could share what I saw on the projector screen with you, but the setting was a little dark, so I wasn’t able to take quality photos. My apologies.
Dr. Shukor was one of the final 4 among the 11,425 applicants who vied for the opportunity to go to space. After undergoing some more screening and rigorous training, he emerged victorious in conquering his childhood dream of flying amidst the heavenly bodies he used to see only in the media. What a lucky guy!
According to him, however, it is not long before we can experience what he experienced as Japan is planning on building the first space hotel which is projected to be finished around the year 2017. In addition, there have been rumors circulating that in 2027, space tourism will be available to anyone who wishes to take on the adventure of a lifetime. Well, that is as long as you have $ 300,000 on your savings, then you’re pretty much have booked yourself a 5-minute trip to outside of this planet – yes, just 5 minutes unfortunately.
So, for anyone who wants to spend a different kind of honeymoon experience, get married in 2027!
Well, I myself can’t wait! Not for the honeymoon, of course (although why not). But, first, I have to save up – that trip is pretty expensive. I mean, it is very expensive.
But, before we get all hyped up, let’s take a look at how it is to prepare for space travel. I’ve compiled here some of what Dr. Shukor has shared during his talk about some of the pre-takeoff preparations.
1. You have to meet the following criteria in order to get launched:
a. perfect eyesight
b. perfect hearing
c. no teeth fillings
d. no operations whatsoever
e. good psychological and mental strength
f. “The shorter you are, the more chances of getting into space.”
2. Spinning chair for 25 minutes everyday
According to Dr. Shukor, this is his favorite. I doubt it’ll be mine.
Just imagine your brain after that – all mushy and with optical illusions forming everywhere you look.
3. Cryogenic survival training in places such as Siberia where temperature is at -45 degrees Celsius
4. Applying a weight that is 9 times your body weight on your chest
This is done to make sure that your body can handle the intense pressure of the outer space. The weight is referred to as 9G, which means that it’s 9 times your body weight. When we ride a roller coaster, the force that works against our bodies is just 1.5G, so six times that force is what will be applied to our chests on this survival training.
Wow, pretty crazy, huh?
Dr. Shukor mentioned that he bled a few times due to ruptures. I mean, like yeah, just imagine how hard it is to breathe and to sustain that kind of heavy stuff on your rib cage.
You really gotta admire those astronauts. The training itself is pretty harsh already, and then they spend around 6 months in space!
But, the “fun” doesn’t stop there. After the training and when you seem fit for space travel, it’s time to launch you to kilometers and kilometers above the Earth and into the black, seemingly empty block of infinity.
So, how is life in a spaceship? What is in store in the no-gravity zone for aspiring astronauts? Dr. Shukor also gave us a glimpse into that. And since I’m nice and since you’re nice enough to visit my blog, I’m going to share some of those points with you.
1. It takes approximately 8 minutes and 48 seconds to get out of the Earth.
2. Sleep is just about 6 hours a day. You zip your body in a sleeping bag and tie it to some bar/pole, so you don’t float around.
3. You can’t take a bath because water is scarce. Instead, you can use wet ones/baby wipes to clean yourself. Don’t worry, Dr. Shukor said you won’t smell in space. There’s pretty much no germs/bacteria out there. So, you can breathe easier now.
4. You can shampoo your hair, but you can’t rinse it off. You can just wipe it off. Literally.
5. You swallow whatever you brush when you brush your teeth. I mean, you can’t spit it out unless you want your phlegm and whatever else is in your mouth to float in front of you. Eww, gross!
6. You recycle your urine and your carbon dioxide.
7. Most of your foods are vacuumed. But, sometimes, “you play with your foods in space”. When you have peanuts, for example, you can just let them float and grab them with your mouth. Also, some foods that you find delicious here don’t taste as good when you’re up there.
8. You can drink only through a “straw”.
9. Fishes become confused, and they wiggle up and down, here and there. So, don’t bring pets.
10. When you go to the “bathroom”, you pee into a suction. I’ll leave the imagination to you.
11. You will develop back pain. Approximately 80% of astronauts do.
12. You will be exposed to a radiation that’s equivalent to five times the intensity of chest X-rays (per day in space).
Space travel is a very interesting experience, I would assume. Despite the tough training that one has to go through before the actual flight and the difficulties that one has to cope with while onboard the spaceship, I think it is one of the most enriching trips one can embark on. You can discover things you’ve never encountered. You can see with your own eyes the beauty of the universe which you’ve only tried seeing through the pages of magazines, of books, and through still images. You become face to face with the beauty of the universe which was once only in your imagination.
When you’re out there, what used to be like an illusion becomes a reality that you can touch across a window.
When you look outside, you can see infinite blackness which reminds you of the infinite number of possibilities that life can offer, such as being on that spaceship.
Like Dr. Shukor, I also have that dream to go to space, even for just 5 minutes. I want to experience how it is to be out there in a giant space of unknown where genuine discovery starts to crawl in me, where joy is imperceptible, and where the charm is unexplainable. I want to witness how a dream can meet a reality.
No dream is impossible as long as you believe in it. Going to space is my dream, and I believe that one day, I will conquer it. Whatever your dream is, believe that your reality will achieve it someday.
“It is difficult but not impossible.” – Prince Dastan, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
What is your dream? What have you always wanted to do? Sound off in the comments section.
*Thank you Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor for such an interesting talk! I have certainly learned a lot and have enjoyed your story. I hope you continue to inspire many of the younger generations to chase their dreams. Thank you also to Asia Society Philippines and the Malaysian Embassy for bringing Dr. Shukor to our country in order for him to share with us his experience.