OBBI 041130Z 31013KT 9999 FEW045 21/07 Q1016 NOSIG
Curious in nature, and always hungry for knowledge, Muhammed started his life with dreams of amazement and adventure, manifested out of the pages of childhood books he read. Stories of distant lands, worldly concepts, and experiences, dreams of a vast universe with all it’s intricate complexities. A youthful hunger to see the unknown.
At a time of egotistical achievements. Nations boasted about their accomplishments, in the most narcissistic manner. Coupled with the advent of Satellite communications, spreading the word was shameless, cheap and easy. Brazen self-promoting propaganda of achievements flooded the airwaves, with America and the Soviet in a constant top spar.
In 1982, fate would bring Muhammed to the steps of his destiny. A Syrian Air Force pilot at 32, casually conversing with one of his friends, Muhammed dreamt of an unattainable chance. He remembers being told about astronaut's need to have three things to qualify, Mental Strength, Physical Strength, and General Knowledge, plus it is preferred to be a Fighter pilot, as they are more acclimatized to the task.
With the aid of NASA, 1985 saw the ascension of Lt. Col Sultan bin Salman AlSaud to space. A Hero to the Arab world, and a conqueror of fear. That one act positioned Arabia and fixed the Kingdom of Saudi to the world stage, with pride. Not wanting to be left behind, the Soviets with their Interkosmos Program announced plans to send a Syrian to Space.
The scheduled trip would make Lt. Col. Faris the first Arab to rendezvous with an orbiting object, and first Arab to visit a space station, plus being the second Arab to visit space. A planned trip of about 8 days at a height of 216 miles, Faris, was in for the ride of his life!
In an interview conducted in 2006 on Sharjah TV, The now-retired Gen. Faris, reflects on the time and explains the spectrum of emotions, fear, and anxiety he had to face. The obvious being that of the perils to trip ahead, a tension of self-doubt to accomplishment, and the value of life realized; That which is most felt at the time of launch, and the critical point of reentry.
2.5 hours of wait, locked up in a capsule 50ft atop 350 tons of volatile liquid rocket fuel. Nothing to do but wait, Lt. Col. Faris maintains his composure at the point of stress. With him, and symbolic of an offering was a sample of Syrian wheat, and an ancient tablet with inscriptions to the oldest known alphabet. While waiting, his thoughts of family, friends, and Nation, build up. His fear for life, and burden of mission weighing on him.
The silence brakes to the soft whispers of Fairuz singing through his headset, followed by a surprise of warm messages from his wife and family, singing and wishing him a safe trip. A parting gift from mother Russian, a final boost of encouragement presented to the comrade.
As the world waits with anticipation, and the clock endlessly ticks down the seconds. Research Cosmonaut Muhammed Faris is a calm 82 bpm, as the platform at Baikonur Cosmodrome breaks off and the engines roar with 838kN of thrust at the earth. On the 22nd of July, 1987 at 01:59 UTC Muhammed calls “Onwards!” “!يالله”, and thunders towards space.
As the station flew over Arabia, Muhammed found himself with childish excitement, dazzled by the beauty of our home, he compares the sights to a visual warmth, similar to a mother's loving warmth. All maps merge into one, all nation appear as one, all people loved as one. No borders to separate, no differences to compare, nothing but one.
Strapped to their seats, the decent was delayed for 3 hours, due to expected high winds at the landing zone. Once the order was given, the docking hatch was locked and with the precision of 115.2sec of retrofire, the craft was directed and angled towards earth.
At reentry, Faris recalls the mix of turbulent emotions that ran through him. The joy of a successful mission, the embrace of loved ones, contrasted with the perils of the journey and the fact he’s in a bubble of plasma reaching temperatures of 3,500ºc.
They enter the atmosphere at a height of 400,000ft, beginning their 23 min descent to earth. Rough deceleration from the initial drogue chute, disrupts 8 min of radio silence due to plasma interference. The primary chute is pulled with a tilt mechanism to help dissipate the heat gathered at reentry.
The craft is drifting down at a rate of 24 ft/sec, and with a final blast from six small rocket engines, the craft is cushioned for a safe touchdown. The crew, although considerably off target due to the high winds, is lovingly embraced by mother earth. 30th of July, 1987, at 01:04:12 UTC, 75 nm NE of Arkalyk.
Decorated with the title Hero of the Soviet Union, and awarded the Order of Lenin, Lt. Col. Muhammed Admed Faris Research Cosmonaut and Lt. Col. Munir Habibi backup Research Cosmonaut, return home with two Soviet Cosmonauts as guests to Arabia. Military Parades, Public Celebration, Meeting with the President and officials. Syria Decorates it’s son with the title Hero of the Arabic Republic of Syria, later to promote him to the rank of General...
Muhammed Ahmed Faris is a man that added to the pride of Arabia. Our Nation is indebted to his sacrifices, and achievements. We should hold him at high pride, as a human to name our own. Yet, I am ashamed to admit, that his is a name I never heard before, and his struggles go deeper than the photo smiles. I hurt to know the story of this man, but now I find it an inspiration, and a lesson to learn from.
I hope our Nation wakes up as a People one day..