Abdul Ahad Momand is the first and only Afghan to have traveled to space.
Momand was born on January 1st, 1959 in Sardah, Ghazni Province. He attended
the Polytechnical University of Kabul and the Air Force Academy, where he
trained to be a fighter pilot. Momand served in the Air Force and achieved the
rank of a Colonel. At the age of 29, he was chosen out of 400 candidates to be a
part of the Soviet space program, and headed to Star City, just outside of
Moscow, to train at the Cosmonaut Training Centre to become an astronaut.
On August 29, 1988, Momand traveled to space on the Mir Ep-3 Mission (Soyuz
TM-6/ Soyuz TM-5) with Commander Vladimir Lyakhov and Valery Polyakov. The
three-man crew were to travel to the Mir space station. Momand was to take
photographs of Afghanistan, to use for mapping the mountainous, rugged terrain
of the country. Momand spent 8 days, 20 hours and 26 minutes in space.
After Momandís mother expressed concern for her sonís safety, President
Najibullah arranged for a call from the Presidential Palace to the spacecraft.
When Momand spoke with his mother and President Najibullah, Pashto became the
fourth spoken language in space.
When Lyakhov and Momand boarded Soyuz TM-5 to return to earth (Polyakov was
to stay on the space station), the space craftís computerís malfunctioned. The
two were stuck orbiting the earth for an extra day, in their landing capsule,
with no food or water, until the landing functions were fixed.
The pair landed in Kazakhstan on September 7th, 1988.
Momandís voyage to space was a crucial symbol in the Soviet war in
Afghanistan. Momand was awarded Hero of the Soviet Union on September 7th, 1988.
He has been living in Stuttgart, Germany with his wife and three children since
by S. Ghilzai / Published on June 29, 2014