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As Malaysia's space program prepares to send the country's first astronaut to the space station next year, it is tackling some unusual quandaries, such as when to conduct the five daily Islamic prayers on an orbiting ship where a day lasts only 90 minutes.
A computer program called Muslims in Space, which calculates when space faring Muslims should pray and, using spherical trigonometry, discerns the direction of the Ka'aba, the holy shrine in Mecca that Muslims face during prayer.
To settle the timing question, the software divides the space station's 90-minute "days" into the same five periods used for prayer in conventional, ground-based Islam. The program then links these periods to standard Greenwich time, so the astronauts can pray at both the correct Earth time and the correct time of day that they perceive on the space station.