HomeScience & TechMuhammad Faris, Syria's First Cosmonaut, Passes Away at 72

Muhammad Faris, Syria’s First Cosmonaut, Passes Away at 72

Muhammad Faris, the trailblazing cosmonaut who became the first and only astronaut from Syria, breathed his last on Friday at the age of 72. Reports indicate that Faris succumbed to a prolonged illness while residing in Turkey, where he sought refuge since 2012.

Faris etched his name in history when he was chosen in 1985 to participate in the Soviet Union’s Interkosmos program. His remarkable journey into space commenced on July 22, 1987, aboard the Soyuz TM-3 spacecraft, alongside cosmonauts Aleksandr Viktorenko and Aleksandr Pavlovich Aleksandrov. During this mission, Faris achieved the distinction of being the inaugural foreign national to embark on a Russian spaceflight and the first to dock at the famed space station Mir.

Notably, before Faris, Sultan Bin Salman Al Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family, had ventured into space. However, Faris’s mission marked the first instance of a professional Arab astronaut’s voyage beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

Faris’s transformative experience in space catalyzed a profound shift in his worldview. He famously remarked in a 2016 interview with The Guardian, “When you have seen the whole world through your window there is no us and them, no politics.” This epiphany led him to advocate for science and astronomy education, endeavoring to share the unparalleled perspective he gained from his cosmic sojourn.

Famously dubbed the “Neil Armstrong of the Arab world,” Faris aspired to cultivate a new generation of Syrian space enthusiasts. Despite his fervent pleas to initiate a national space program upon his return, Syrian authorities rebuffed his proposals. Instead, he was redirected to a career in training fighter aircraft cadets, eventually rising to the rank of General in the Air Force college.

While Faris soared to great heights above the Earth, his homeland grappled with tumultuous times. The Arab Spring upheaval prompted his departure from Syria, leading to his resettlement in Turkey, where he advocated for refugee rights.

Faris’s journey parallels that of many astronauts who undergo a profound cognitive shift known as the “overview effect” upon witnessing Earth from space. This phenomenon, documented by author Frank White in his book “Overview Effect,” often fosters a sense of global interconnectedness, transcending national boundaries.

Indeed, Faris’s legacy serves as a poignant reminder of the transformative power of space exploration and the enduring quest to foster unity and understanding among humanity.

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