Monday, September 24, 2007

Up... up and away!

Aku sibuk ari nih, sambil layan paranoia aku, and keja. So didn't have time to really post an entry. But I had to make this one because of the headline in today's papers


So anyway, here it is.

The Malaysian astronaut to blast off to the International Space Station on Oct 10 will be decided at the last minute after both the country's candidates are recognised as astronauts.
Prime minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said today that Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor would be placed with the first crew for the Soyuz 15-S mission while Captain Dr Faiz Khaleed would join the second crew.

"All the final changes in the selection of the candidate for the mission will be decided by the Russians later. This process is necessary to ensure that the mission proceeds smoothly and successfully," Abdullah said when making the announcement live from his office here.

The two Malaysian astronauts will be at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, from Friday to undergo final training before the launch on Oct 10.

Abdullah said the selection of the two was on the recommendation of the selection committee chaired by Tun Haniff Omar based on a meeting of the working committee of the Russian Intergovernmental Board and the final assessment report on the preparation of the Soyuz 15-S mission by the Russian space agency (Roscosmos).

He said the government was very proud that the Main Crew Commissioning Board had acknowledged that both the Malaysian astronaut candidates had passed with distinction and were qualified to represent the country in its first mission to space.

"This means that the country has produced two Malaysians who can join a space mission at any time when needed and has been accorded recognition by an international astronaut training body," he said.

Besides Dr Sheikh Muszaphar, 35, a medical officer from the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital (HUKM), the Russians have proposed that the first crew for the Soyuz 15-S mission comprise Yuri Malechenko of Russia and Peggy Whitson of the United States.

The second crew will comprise Sharizan Sharipov of Russia and Michael Fincke of the United States besides Captain Dr Faiz, 27, a dentist with the Malaysian Armed Forces.

"On behalf of the government and people of Malaysia, I wish the mission success and I pray that it will go smoothly as planned," Abdullah said.

The programme to send a Malaysian to space was conceived in 2003 when Russia agreed to send a Malaysian to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of Malaysia's RM3.4 billion purchase of 18 Russian-made Sukhoi 30-MKM jet fighters.

Meanwhile, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis said it was normal to name the crew at the eleventh hour as anything could happen between now and the launch date.

"Remember Yuri Gagarin (the first man in space) was not the first choice. He was the secondary choice but was chosen at the eleventh hour because the primary choice crew came down with measles," he said.

He said the final decision on who would be on board the Soyuz -- whether the first crew team or second crew team or mixed team -- would be determined by the Russian mission director
Dr Jamaluddin confirmed that at least one Malaysian would be on board the Russian rocket to be launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan at 9.21pm (Malaysian time) on Oct 10.

Dr Jamaluddin said Dr Sheikh Muszaphar and Capt Dr Faiz were chosen from a total of 11,275 candidates since the Malaysian National Space Agency (Angkasa) started the screening campaign for the programme in 2003.

The Malaysian astronaut is expected to conduct scientific research on cancer cells in space to study the effect of a weightless environment on the cells.

He said the government planned to telecast the launch live through all the local television stations and the prime minister would also witness the historic moment through live telecast.
Dr Muszaphar and Capt Dr Faiz, both bachelors, who are currently undergoing a 12-month training at the Yuri Gagarin Aerospace Training Centre at Star City in Moscow, would be informed of the announcement later, he said.

The minister said that initially it was difficult to convince Malaysians that they could be astronauts too but slowly "the possibility became a dream and now has turned into reality,"
This will be the first time in space history that a Muslim astronaut is expected to fast in outer space as the mission coincides with the month of Ramadan.

Haniff said he believed that fasting in space should not pose a problem to the Malaysian astronaut as Islam was a practical religion which provided for flexibility in performing one's religious obligations.

The space crew will spend about 10 days at the ISS, located 402.34km from the surface of the Earth.

Erm... so why the need to point this out? First of all, pride! Malaysia now can send someone into space. Two even. Nevermind we don't have an immediate practical reason to... we do!
Secondly, the quips in my office about... well.. erm.. either you know or you don't lah kan.
"Talk about going to look for the ultimate black hole"
"To boldly go where no man has gone before... they can't use that anymore for more reasons than they know"
"The thrusters have always been fired up, and ti's always ready for a launch"
"Are spacesuits in this season?"

You name it, every joke that could be made, about erm... you know... well if if you do lah, was made. Oh well... congratulations to the duo anyway.

We're proud of you guys. And yes, PRIDE has a lot to do with it (sorry, couldn't resist). Laughing as I write this... later...

PS - The angkasawans have their own blog, but it looks like most governmental webpages and all, it rarely gets updated. Well, it has been ages since they updated and there's not much. But read it anywaylah for patriotism's sake. CLICK HERE for their blog.