Birthday: July 27, 1972
Age: 48 Years, 48 Year Old Males
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: Dato' Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Al Masrie bin Sheikh Mustapha
Born Country: Malaysia
Born in: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Famous as: Astronaut
Spouse/Ex-: Halina Mohd Yunos (m. 2010)
father: Sheikh Mustapha Sheikh Abdul Shukor
mother: Zuraidah Sheikh Ahmad
children: Sophea Isabella, Sophea Natasha
education: Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, National University of Malaysia, Maktab Rendah Sains MARA
Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor is the first Malaysian to go to space. He became interested in science and astronomy early in his life, after being encouraged in this by his father, who bought him books and telescopes. Later, however, he studied medicine and earned his master’s degree in orthopedic surgery, possibly in 2006. But, by then he had registered himself for the country’s first space program and was eventually chosen as a crew member of the Soyuz TMA-11, which was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 10 October, 2007. He remained in space for ten days, doing various medical and industrial experiments and returned to earth aboard Soyuz TMA-10 on 21 October. Currently, he is doing research work at UKM’s Space Science Centre. He also gives talks on his experiences both at national and international levels, motivating youngsters to dream big. He is also very concerned about world hunger and child health and wants to concentrate on mitigating such problems.
Childhood & Early Life
Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor was born on 27 July 1972 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. His father, Datuk Sheikh Mustapha Abdul Shukor, was a businessman, based in Negri Sembilan. His mother’s name is Datin Zuraidah Sheikh Ahmad.
Born third of his parents’ five children, he has two elder brothers called Sheikh Ahmad and Sheikh Taufik and a younger brother called Sheikh Arwis. Another younger brother, Sheikh Mustapha (Azil), passed away in 2007.
When the boys were young, their parents laid great emphasis on developing their body, intellect and soul, beginning their morning with Subuh prayers and then going for a long swim in order to build their stamina. By the time he reached seven, Muszaphar had completed his first Quran Recitation.
He began his schooling at St Paul’s School in Seremban from where he completed his primary education. Thereafter, he was enrolled at Maktab Rendah Sains MARA (MRSM), a boarding school located in Muar, Johor, where he studied from Form One to Form Five.
In 1990, he entered Kasturba Medical College, located in Manipal, India, on full scholarship, provided by government of Malaysia. Here, he studied for seven years, first completing his A-level, eventually earning his MBBS degree in 1997.
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On earning his MBBS degree, Sheikh Muszaphar returned to Malaysia, where in 1998 he joined Seremban Hospital for his compulsory internship. Thereafter, he joined Kuala Lumpur General Hospital in 1999, serving there for one year. Again in 2000, he moved to Selayang Hospital, where he served till 2001.
In 2002, he joined Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM), where he also underwent training for his master’s degree in Orthopedic Surgery, eventually earning his degree from there. Thereafter, he started working as a trainee lecturer at the same institution.
While studying for his master’s degree, he got involved with the Malaysian Medical Relief Society, traveling with them to Cambodia in 2003, serving the victims of the disastrous flood without any thought to his own safety. Again in 2004, when an earthquake hit Afghanistan, he diligently served the survivors there.
Concurrently while working for his master’s degree and serving the victims of natural calamities, he also started commercial modeling, appearing for many well-known brands. Sometime now, he also cofounded a restaurant called Rebung, which offered authentic Malay cuisine, doing a lot of work with his own hand.
Preparing for Space Travel
In 2002, Agensi Angkasa Negara was set up in order to stimulate Malaysia’s space program. In 2003, an agreement was signed with Russian Federation, whereby it was decided that Russia would bear the cost of training two Malaysians for space travel and send one to the International Space Station.
Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor was always interested in space travel and dreamt of becoming another Yuri Gagarin or Neil Armstrong. However, he was not alone in this. 11,435 applicants, including the three Shukor brothers, Sheikh Ahmad, Sheikh Taufik and Sheikh Muszaphar, registered for the program.
While Sheikh Ahmad did not make it to the final 100, Sheikh Taufik was eliminated before reaching the final 59. Continuing to battle, Sheikh Muszapha, along with three other contestants, made to the final list in the beginning of 2006.
On 17 September 2006, Sheikh Muszaphar and Faiz Khaleed were chosen as the final contestants. They were then sent to Russia, where they underwent a one-year training program at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, called the Star City, located near Moscow.
In September 2007, Sheikh Muszaphar was chosen as a crew member of the Soyuz TMA-11. However, as a guest of Russian government, his designation was ‘Space Flight Participant’. Yury Malenchenko of Russia was the Commander of the mission, while Peggy Whitson of the United States was the flight engineer.
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On 10 October 2007, at 13:22 UTC (05:22 p.m. Moscow time), the mission was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It docked to the International Space Station (ISS) at 14:50 UTC on October 12, 2007. There they remained for ten days.
Earlier in an interview, Sheikh Muszaphar had said that he hoped to study various live cell cultures during his flight. During his stay in the space, he performed experiments on the characteristics and growth of liver cancer and leukemia cells as well as the crystallization of various proteins and microbes.
While his work on liver cancer and leukemia cells would help the medical science, his experimentations on crystallization of proteins and microbes were meant for industrial benefits. That apart, he also recorded video addresses for school children.
Ramadan in Space
Apart from the usual challenges faced by every astronaut, as a practicing Muslim, Sheikh Muszaphur had an additional one. As his time in space coincided with the last part of Ramadan, he had to undertake certain rites, like praying and fasting.
Their spaceship orbited Earth 16 times every 24 hours, resulting in a day/night cycle every 90 minutes. Therefore, facing Mecca during prayer posed problem and so was keeping day long fast. To help him, Islamic National Fatwa Council published ‘Guidelines for Performing Islamic Rites (Ibadah) at the International Space Station’.
On 13 October 2007, Sheikh Muszaphar celebrated Eid ul-Fitr, handing out some satay and cookies he had brought from home to the rest of the crew. Eventually on 21 October 2007, he returned to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA-10 with the Expedition 15 crew members, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov.
Awards & Achievements
Sheikh Muszaphar is now a Fellow Researcher at Institute of Space Science National University of Malaysia UKM.
He has been awarded Leonov Award 2010 by the Association of Space Explorers and Malaysian Icon Award 2010 by Malaysia Book of Records.
In 2011, he was awarded Meritus Award by Open University Malaysia. Also in the same year, he was appointed an Honorary Colonel by Malaysian Volunteer Corps Department (RELA) and an Ambassador by Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Family & Personal Life
In 2010, Sheikh Muszaphar married Datin Dr Halina Mohd Yunos. The couple has four children; two daughters called Sophea Isabella (born in 2011) and Sophea Natasha (born in 2013) as well as twin sons called Sheikh Adam and Sheikh Noah (born in 2017).