We all know that here on Earth, Ramadan is pretty self-explanatory, where the setting sun that happens once a day marks the end of our fast. Thing is, in space, Ramadan is starkly different because of how the International Space Station spins around the Earth at around 27,600 kilometers per hour, meaning that its passengers would witness 16 entire sunrises and sunsets every single day.
With that in mind, as astronaut Sultan Alneyadi arrived at the International Space Station back on March 2, he personally had to contend with this question and this is how he fasts during the holy month.
When asked about what he will do during the month, Alneyadi went on to say how as an astronaut he is considered a “traveler” and by that definition, he is excused from fasting during Ramadan. “We can actually break fast,” he said. “It’s not compulsory.” He then added that just as how it’s not compulsory to fast when someone is ill, in that same vein, anything that could pose a risk to the mission or to the health of any of the crew members is not compulsory. “We’re actually allowed to eat sufficient food to prevent any escalation of lack of food or nutrition or hydration,” he said.
What’s interesting is that Alneyadi was not the only Arab astronaut who had to contend with this puzzling question. Back in 1985, towards the end of the holy month, Prince Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia began a weeklong space shuttle mission STS-51G where he also was in space during the holy month. Beyond Ramadan, Alneyadi is planned to remain in space for about five months where he will take part in 19 experiments including back pain, plant biology, cardiovascular health and much more.