The title track of White City’s debut EP, Space Cadet, was inspired by the story of Abdul Ahad Mohmand, the first and only Afghan in space.
A former pilot in the air force of Soviet-backed premier Mohammad Najibullah, Mohmand found himself picked for accelerated cosmonaut training in 1988 as part of a political gesture that the USSR would continue backing the Afghan government as they withdrew from the conflict against the Mujahadeen.
Mohmand was there purely as a symbol and, beyond talking to Najibullah and taking photographs of Afghanistan, he wasn’t supposed to touch anything. However, he noticed a flaw in the computer system just before descent that saved the crew’s lives.
Following the fall of the Najibullah government, Mohamand fled Afghanistan and now lives in Stuttgart, Germany.
Cosmonauts are highly revered all over the former USSR, especially space-pioneer Yuri Gagarin, who’s mentioned in the song. On our tour through Tajjikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, we would regularly get a cheer for shouting out
“Yuri Gagarin – ochen haroshi parin!”
(Yuri Gagarin – a really great guy!).
The Atlantic - “A Space Oddity”
Wikipedia entry on Abdul Ahad Mohmand
Youtube - Interview with Mohmand (DARI)