Friday, November 16, 2007

Muslim Astronaut

Sultan Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud Payload Specialist
Born June 27, 1956, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Completed his elementary and secondary education in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He later went on to study communications and aviation in the United States. In 1982 he was appointed to the position of researcher in the Department of International Communications at the Ministry of Information in Saudi Arabia.In 1984 he served as Deputy Director for the Saudi Arabian Olympic Information Committee at the Olympics in Los Angeles, California. Later that year, when the Department of Advertising was created at the Ministry of Information, he was appointed its Acting Director.In 1985 he flew as a Payload Specialist on STS-51G Discovery (June 17-24, 1985). As one of a seven member international crew, which also included American and French astronauts, he represented the Arab Satellite Communications Organization (ARABSAT) in deploying their satellite, ARABSAT-1B.Upon conclusion of his space flight, he helped in founding the Association of Space Explorers, an international organization comprising all astronauts and cosmonauts who have been in space, and served on its Board of Directors for several years.In 1985 he was commissioned as an officer into the Royal Saudi Air Force. He holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and is qualified in several military and civilian aircraft.For several years he headed the Advisory Committee for the Science Oasis Project to be built in Riyadh.In 1989 and then again in 1992 he was elected to the position of Chairman of the Saudi Benevolent Association for Handicapped Children; where he also served as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Prince Salman Center for Handicapped Research.In 1991 he accepted an invitation from the Board of Directors of the Saudi Computer Society to become Honorary Chairman, and in 1993 due to his special interest in architecture he agreed to serve as Honorary President of the Al-Umran Saudi Association (a society of specialists in the fields of the built environment).

Prince Sultan told a television interviewer that another big moment was when he had first glimpsed Saudi Arabia from space. "Once," he said, "I was woken up by some crew members who said: 'Come and see your country.' I was looking from the upper deck window. The earth was above us, and I saw the Eastern Province with its lights. It was a very moving sight."

At the same interview, Prince Sultan praised the team of Saudi scientists, who had been monitoring his experiments from earth. "We don't lack talent in the Arab world. We have plenty of it," the prince said. "All we need to do is give people the chance to prove themselves." Prince Sultan also displayed the small Koran he had carried into space; inside was a prayer dictated by his mother asking God to take care of travelers - and the prince's Saudi pilot's licence. "I was saying the prayer during take off," said Sultan. "And the pilot's license?" he was asked. "I took that with me in case we had to land somewhere and I needed to hire an areoplane."

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