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A Compilation of News, Updates & Press Releases

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Tuesday, 25 September 2007
Topic: - Selection Process

PUTRAJAYA: Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor looks increasingly likely to be the first Malaysian in space. 

The 35-year-old Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital (HUKM) medical officer has been named in the primary crew for the Russian Soyuz 15-S mission, which is scheduled for launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Oct 10. 

His two other crewmembers are Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchencko and American Peggy Whitson, the first female commander of the International Space Station (ISS).

AWAITED MOMENT: Abdullah announcing the person chosen to be the Angkasawan at the Prime Minister's office in Putrajaya yesterday. With him are selection panel chief Tun Haniff Omar (centre) and Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Jamaluddn Jarjis.
The other Malaysian in training, 27-year-old Armed Forces dental surgeon Kapt Dr Faiz Khaleed has been named in the secondary crew together with American astronaut Michael Fincke and Russia's Sharizan Sharipov. 

However, Dr Muszaphar is not absolutely certain to be the on the space flight. The decision on which of the two Malaysians will be in the final crew will be decided by the Russians at the last minute. 

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in announcing this, said the Government was proud that both the Angkasawan candidates passed the training with flying colours. 

"The country has successfully produced two individuals who can participate in space missions at any time when they are needed, and the Government is proud that the Main Crew Commissioning Board has also acknowledged their success."

GOOD TO GO: Dr Muszaphar giving the thumbs-up at the Star City Cosmonaut Training Centre outside Moscow on Sept. 18 - REUTERS
"On behalf of the Government and all Malaysians, I wish them both all the best. I pray that the mission will be a safe one and a success," he said at a press conference to announce the Malaysian astronaut yesterday. 

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar and Kapt Dr Faiz will leave for Baikonur on Friday to undergo final preparations. 

The plan to send a Malaysian to space was conceived in 2003, when Russia agreed to send a Malaysian to the ISS as part of the RM3.4bil purchase of 18 Russian-made Sukhoi 30-MKM jet fighters.

The Malaysian astronaut will be carrying out experiments on board the ISS related to the growth and characteristics of liver cancer and leukaemia cells, and microbes in space, and the crystallisation of various proteins. 

Since he will also be in space during Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the Malaysian astronaut will also be taking along some local delicacies such as rendang to the ISS, where besides carrying out food tests, he will also be sharing Malaysians’ favourite dishes with the rest of the crew. 

Since Russian Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in 1961, many have followed suit. 

Malaysia joins a long list of countries to have sent their citizens to outer space.


Source: The Star Online

Posted by site editor at 12:01 AM JST
Monday, 24 September 2007
Topic: - Selection Process

PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announces the country's first astronaut at his office in Putrajaya, Monday. - AP

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia's astronaut candidates Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and Kapt Dr Faiz Khaleed have passed their training programme successfully and have qualified to become astronauts. Both the medical officer and army dental surgeon are equally eligible to be sent to space on Oct 10, but if all goes according to plan, it will be Dr Sheikh Muszaphar making history as the first Malaysian in space.

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar, 35, has been named as part of the three-member first crew for the Soyuz 15-S mission alongside Yuri Malechencko from Russia and American Peggy Whitson, while Kapt Dr Faiz, 27, is a member of the second crew with Michael Fincke from the United States and Russian Sharizan Sharipov. 

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in announcing this said the Government was proud that both Angkasawan candidates had passed with flying colours and were equally eligible to represent the country in its first outer space mission. 

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar, Whitson and Malenchenko will board the Russian Soyuz TMA-11, which will blast off from Baikanur in Kazakhstan on Oct 10.


Source: News @ The Star Online

Posted by site editor at 8:01 AM JST
Saturday, 21 April 2007
Topic: - Selection Process

KUALA LUMPUR: The training has been intense, the months long. The choice is now down to the wire. 

In just six months, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will announce who has made the cut to become Malaysia's first Angkasawan.  

In the stiff competition between medical officer Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and dentist Kapten Dr Faiz Khaleed, both candidates have demonstrated equal mental and physical strength during their training in Star City, Moscow, said Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis. 

"It is difficult to even guess who is the more likely candidate," he said yesterday. 

Dr Jamaluddin was quick to add that the timing of the announcement could vary depending on further notice from the Russian authorities. 

"It is also possible that the chosen Angkasawan may be changed at the time of launch."  

"He may suddenly start panicking and sweating and if this happens, the second candidate will be launched." 

Both Angkasawan candidates are undergoing a year's training, which will end in October. 

Dr Jamaluddin was speaking after a discussion on the BIO International Convention (BIO 2007), to be held from May 6 to 9 in Boston, the United States.  

"There is flourishing interest from the West on outsourcing the biotechnology sector to Asia." 

"Malaysia is strategically located and we should make use of this interest to woo people to the country." 

"So we will use BIO 2007 as it gives a global platform to draw investor attention to Malaysia," he said.


Source: The Star Online

Posted by site editor at 12:01 AM JST
Monday, 18 December 2006
Topic: - Selection Process

MOSCOW: The decision on which of the two Angkasawan candidates – Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Sheikh Shukor and Dr Faiz Khaleed – will go into space in October next year will be made at the last possible moment. 

Science Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis said although Dr Muszaphar was now considered the main candidate, this did not mean that he was going to be the one leaving for space on Oct 6. 

Dr Faiz was currently the back-up candidate but both were getting equal training from the Russians at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre. 

"From the reports I have received, the Russians feel that the two of them are equally capable. We will make a final decision as late as possible," he said during the launch of the Angkasawan weblog (blog) here.  

The blog will allow the candidates to share their daily experiences with the rest of the world over the Internet.  

Dr Muszaphar, 34, is a medical doctor attached to the Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Cheras while 26-year-old Dr Faiz is a dental surgeon with the Royal Malaysian Air Force.  

The two said they did not feel that they were in competition against each other. 

"In fact, we inspire each other to do better. Even after classes, we sit down together in our apartment to compare notes to see if we have missed anything," said Dr Faiz. 

Dr Muszaphar said besides studying together, they spent almost each waking hour with each other. 

"Having Faiz here makes going through the classes and tests easier. It would be lonely otherwise. We constantly inspire each other to do better," said the good-looking doctor as Dr Faiz nodded in agreement. 

On the blogs, the two said everyone could write to them via the website

Besides reading about the experiences of the two, the public can also give their opinions and comments via the website.


Source: The Star Online

Posted by site editor at 12:01 AM WST
Saturday, 23 September 2006
Topic: - Selection Process

EMPAT calon angkasawan pertama yang diumumkan esok.

KUALA LUMPUR: Persaingan untuk menentukan siapa di antara empat calon yang bakal terpilih sebagai angkasawan pertama negara akan sampai ke kemuncaknya, Isnin ini.

Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi dijangka mengumumkan dua nama yang akan menjalani latihan sebagai angkasawan di Pusat Latihan Angkasawan Yuri Gagarin, Star City, Rusia selama 18 bulan selepas ini.

Seorang daripada dua calon akhir itu dijadual berlepas ke Stesen Angkasa Antarabangsa (ISS) September tahun depan, manakala seorang lagi sebagai calon simpanan.

Empat calon angkasawan negara yang berjaya mara ke peringkat saringan terakhir ialah pegawai perubatan Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM), Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, 34, jurutera, S. Vanajah, 35, pakar pergigian Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM), Kapten Dr. Faiz Khaleed, 26 dan juruterbang Penerbangan Malaysia (MAS) Mohammed Faiz Kamaluddin, 34.

Utusan Malaysia sebelum ini melaporkan keempat-empat mereka mempunyai keistimewaan tersendiri walaupun pada asasnya sudah pun memiliki pakej sebagai seorang angkasawan.

Laporan itu dibuat berdasarkan penilaian beberapa pakar perubatan yang melihat keistimewaan tersebut satu aset dan mungkin mampu mempengaruhi keputusan panel pemilihan dalam menentukan dua calon terakhir.

Dalam laporan berkenaan, Mohammed Faiz dilihat sanggup memberikan komitmen tinggi walaupun sudah berkeluarga dan mempunyai kerjaya stabil.

Faiz pula selain kerjaya tetap sebagai pegawai tentera, mempunyai masa depan lebih cerah dalam bidang angkasa lepas disebabkan usia yang masih muda.

Sementara Sheikh Muszaphar memiliki sifat matang serta sanggup memberikan komitmen walaupun stabil dari segi kewangan.

Vanajah pula merupakan seorang wanita yang begitu cekal sehingga mampu mengatasi calon lelaki dan komited walaupun memiliki kerjaya stabil.


Source: Utusan Online

Posted by site editor at 12:01 AM JST
Tuesday, 5 September 2006
Topic: - Selection Process

SEPANG: Medical officer Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and army dental surgeon Kapt Dr Faiz Khaleed are Malaysia's final two astronaut candidates.  

Announcing this at the Bunga Raya Complex of the KL International Airport yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi urged them to make the nation proud and put Malaysia on the map. 

He also congratulated every person and organisation involved in selecting the candidates to be the country's first astronaut from the more than 10,000 applicants.

Medical officer Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor (left) and army dental surgeon Kapt Dr Faiz Khaleed have been selected as Malaysia's final two astronaut candidates. After further training in Moscow one will be named Malaysia's first astronaut.
Dr Sheikh Muszaphar, 34, and Kapt Dr Faiz, 26, were shortlisted from four finalists.  

The other two were senior quality engineer S. Vanajah and 34-year-old commercial airline pilot Capt Mohammed Faiz Kamaludin. 

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar, attached to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital, and Kapt Dr Faiz will undergo a 12-month training stint in Russia. 

They will leave for the Yuri Gagarin Aerospace Training Centre at Star City in Moscow at end of the month. 

The successful candidate is scheduled to leave for the International Space Station on Sept 2 next year to undergo a research and development programme, including research on cancer and biotechnology. 

Selection committee chairman Tun Mohammed Hanif Omar told reporters that both Vanajah and Capt Mohammed Faiz lost out during their recent stint at the Russian Space Agency in Moscow. 

"Vanajah suffered stress during a gravity test and Capt Mohammed Faiz was found to have a medical problem."  

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis said that before the Moscow stint, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar and Capt Mohammed Faiz had the best marks but since the latter had a medical problem, Kapt Dr Faiz was chosen instead. 

"But this still does not mean Dr Sheikh Muszaphar will be the astronaut as anything can happen," he said. 

Dr Jamaluddin said the programme would also help make children realise the importance of space science.  

"There are plans to have teleconferencing access to the Malaysian astronaut during his time in space," he said.


Source: News @ The Star Online

Posted by site editor at 12:01 AM JST
Topic: - Selection Process

Medical officer Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor (left) and army dental surgeon Capt Dr Faiz Khaleed, the two successful candidates for the Astronaut programme raring to go to Moscow to become the first Malaysian astronaut posing at the KL International Airport.
SEPANG: The pursuit of a Masters degree and modelling will now take a backseat for Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor. 

The medical officer, however, hopes to carry out bone studies while in space if he gets the nod to become Malaysia's first astronaut. 

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar who is pursuing a Masters in Orthopaedics while serving as a trainee lecturer at Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said although his first love was medicine, he believed in diversifying, and his ultimate dream was to go into space. 

"I have put my heart and soul into this, everything else has to take a backseat until the whole programme is over," he said, when asked about his modelling and medical career. 

The all-rounder has also taken part in humanitarian aid activities for Mercy Malaysia – in Afghanistan in 2002 and Cambodia in 2003. 

His fellow astronaut candidate Kapt Dr Faiz Khaleed, a dental surgeon with the Malaysian Armed Forces, said he was looking forward to going to space. 

"If I say I am not afraid, it will not be true, as no one is fearless, especially when he has to do something new. But we have to conquer fear," he said. 

Malaysia Airlines pilot Mohammed Faiz Kamaludin and senior quality engineer S. Vanajah, who did not make the final cut, congratulated Dr Sheikh Muszaphar and Kapt Dr Faiz. 

Mohammed Faiz, who was not selected due to a "minute medical complication," said he believed in destiny. 

"I am looking at the bright side – I went to Moscow, met a lot of people, learnt the Russian language and now despite my own work as a pilot, I can still help promote science and space studies in schools under Angkasa's (National Space Agency) programme," he said.  

Vanajah said she would go back to work as an events coordinator and be a backup candidate in Angkasa's programme.


Source: The Star Online

Posted by site editor at 12:01 AM JST
Monday, 4 September 2006
Topic: - Selection Process

SEPANG: Pegawai perubatan Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM), Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor dan pegawai pergigian Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM), Kapten Dr. Faiz Khaleed dipilih sebagai calon angkasawan negara untuk mengikuti latihan di Rusia selama 12 bulan.

Hanya seorang daripada mereka akan mengikuti ekspedisi ke Stesen Angkasa Antarabangsa (ISS) pada 2 September 2007 - dua hari selepas negara menyambut ulang tahun ke-50 kemerdekaannya.

PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi mengucapkan tahniah kepada Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor (kiri) sambil diperhatikan Faiz Khaleed selepas mengumumkan nama dua calon akhir Program Angkasawan Negara di KLIA, Sepang, semalam.

Pemilihan mereka diumumkan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi di Kompleks Bunga Raya, Lapangan Terbang KL, di sini hari ini.

Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar, 34, yang masih bujang, berkelulusan ijazah perubatan MBBS dan penuntut tahun akhir sarjana Surgeri Ortopedik di UKM, sementara Dr. Faiz, 26, pula memiliki ijazah sarjana muda pergigian akan menjalani latihan di Pusat Latihan Angkasawan Yuri Gagarin, Star City, Rusia mulai hujung bulan ini.

Di situ mereka akan menjalani latihan sebelum seorang daripada mereka dipilih untuk ke angkasa lepas.

Latihan profesional yang akan mereka jalani di Rusia ini akan melayakkan mereka menjadi angkasawan profesional dan membolehkan mereka menyertai program yang dianjurkan Amerika Syarikat atau negara Eropah lain.

Angkasawan pertama negara dijadual berlepas ke ISS bagi program penyelidikan dan pembangunan (R&D), termasuk penyelidikan kanser dan bioteknologi.

Calon berjaya akan berlepas dengan pesawat Soyuz 2 Rusia yang akan bercantum dengan Stesen Angkasa Antarabangsa (ISS).

Di situ, angkasawan negara akan berada enam hingga lapan hari dengan melaksanakan aktiviti penyelidikan sains, teknologi dan industri Malaysia, sebelum pulang ke bumi.

Pada 27 April lalu mereka bersama dua lagi calon ke peringkat akhir pemilihan angkasawan negara - juruterbang Penerbangan Malaysia (MAS) Mohamed Faiz Kamaluddin, 34, dan jurutera yang juga calon wanita tunggal, S. Vanajah, 35, telah berlepas ke Moscow, Rusia untuk menjalani ujian di Agensi Angkasa Rusia (RSA)

Bagaimanapun Mohamed Faiz dan Vanajah tidak dipilih kerana Mohamed Faiz gagal dalam ujian perubatan sementara Vanajah pula mengalami tekanan ketika ujian daya tindakan graviti yang dijalankan di situ.

Ketika mengumumkan calon angkasawan negara itu, Perdana Menteri berkata, Malaysia berjaya mengorak langkah baru dengan membuktikan kemampuan untuk menghantar angkasawan ke angkasa lepas.

"Ini adalah satu detik penting dalam sejarah. Kerajaan dan seluruh rakyat mengucapkan tahniah dan syabas kepada mereka yang terpilih dalam usaha memartabatkan nama negara di pesada dunia."

"Daripada 10,000 pemohon dan melalui tapisan ketat, panel pemilihan angkasawan sebulat suara memilih kedua-duanya untuk menjalani latihan di Rusia," katanya.


Dalam pada itu, Menteri Sains, Teknologi dan Inovasi, Datuk Seri Dr. Jamaluddin Jarjis berkata, setelah perbincangan dijalankan dengan Rusia dan dipersetujui oleh Perdana Menteri, tarikh yang diputuskan untuk angkasawan pertama negara berlepas ialah 2 September tahun depan.

Katanya, ia merupakan tarikh yang bersejarah kerana Malaysia akan menyambut Hari Kemerdekaan ke-50 pada tahun itu dan dua hari selepas itu, negara akan mencipta sejarah dengan menghantar rakyat Malaysia ke angkasa lepas.

"Ia juga merupakan tarikh di mana hubungan diplomatik antara Malaysia dan Rusia mencapai 40 tahun dan pada tarikh itu juga, genap 50 tahun kapal angkasa pertama dilancarkan ke angkasa lepas," katanya.

Menurutnya, sama ada Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar atau Dr. Faiz yang dipilih akan ditentukan di peringkat akhir dan Pengerusi Panel Pemilihan Calon Angkasawan Negara, Tun Mohamed Hanif Omar akan terlibat hingga ke akhir sebelum pelancaran ke angkasa lepas.

Sementara itu Mohamed Hanif memberitahu, pada mulanya Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar dan Mohammed Faiz merupakan dua calon yang dipilih namun disebabkan Mohamed Faiz tidak melepasi ujian perubatan maka tempatnya diganti oleh Dr. Faiz.

Jelasnya, biarpun Dr. Faiz adalah calon simpanan, kedua-duanya mempunyai peluang seimbang dan mereka akan menjalani latihan yang sama di Rusia kelak.

Program angkasawan negara ini adalah timbal balas Kerajaan Rusia-Malaysia yang membabitkan pembelian 18 jet pejuang jenis Sukhoi SU-30MKM bernilai AS$1 bilion (kira-kira RM3.4 bilion), dengan kerajaan Rusia menawarkan tempat untuk seorang angkasawan Malaysia menyertai ekspedisi angkasawan Rusia ke ISS.


Source: Utusan Online

Posted by site editor at 8:01 AM JST
Topic: - Selection Process


Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor (left) and Capt Dr Faiz Khaleed (right). - BERNAMA Photo 

SEPANG: Medical officer Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor hopes to ace a punishing 12-month training in Russia before potentially carving his name as the first ever Malaysian astronaut, a feat most others can merely dream about.

He and dental surgeon Capt. Dr Faiz Khaleed have been named the final two candidates for a spot in a Russian space launcher that will leave for the International Space Station (ISS) on Sept 2, 2007.

"I've put in my soul into this programme right from the beginning. I am going all the way," he told reporters following the announcement on the successful candidates by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi here Monday.

Scheduled to leave for Russia at the end of the month, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar, who is in his final year pursuing a Masters in Orthopaedic Surgery programme, said they would have to face a harsh winter and grapple with the Russian language.

The handsome Petaling Jaya-born 34-year-old cited mental strength as one of the strong points that worked in his favour.

"Becoming an astronaut is not about looks. It's more about your mental, physical and psychological strengths. I believe that I was selected based on merit," he said when queried whether his perceived popularity was a factor in the outcome of the selection process.

Proud that he had been chosen as one of the final two candidates, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar said he would love to conduct bone experiments in space in line with his orthopaedic background.

"This is an opportunity for me to show the 'Malaysia Boleh' (Malaysia Can) spirit and make the country proud," said the trainee-lecturer at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

He stopped his part-time modelling act six months ago. "I have to be a role model instead of a model. My passion is still medicine."

At a press conference earlier, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis said that Dr Sheikh Muszaphar was the priority candidate to go to space while Dr Faiz was the reserve.

"But it doesn't mean that the priority candidate will go up. Something can happen at the last minute, then it could be Dr Faiz who gets to go. So both have equal chances... and both will be doing exactly the same training," he said.

He said that the final selection on who gets to go into space would depend on the advice of the Astronaut Selection Panel headed by former Inspector-General of Police Tun Mohammed Hanif Omar.

Dr Jamaludin said that the initial training programme of 18 months in Russia had been shortened to 12 months as Russian officials felt that the Malaysian astronaut hopefuls were of high calibre.

He said that experiments to be conducted by the Malaysian astronaut would be based on life-sciences in light of the government's emphasis on biotechnology.

Efforts were also underway, he said, to establish communication channels between ordinary Malaysians and the astronaut aspirants while they were undergoing training and when one of them was in space.

Meanwhile, Dr Faiz expected a lot of challenges in the final stretch and personally did not believe in anybody who said they were fearless.

"Everybody has fear. But it's how you conquer that fear. We have gone through a lot of training, we have to focus. In the army we have been taught how to conquer fear and believe in ourselves," said the 26-year-old dentist from Kuala Lumpur, who is attached with the Malaysian Defence Forces.

The Sept 2, 2007 date chosen to launch the first Malaysian astronaut into space is significant for several reasons.

It coincides with the country's 50th anniversary celebrations and marks 40 years of Malaysia-Russia relations as well as the 50th anniversary of the launching of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, in 1957 by the Soviets.

In his remarks, Abdullah said it would be the first step by Malaysia to prove its capability in the field of aerospace.

"On behalf of the government and all Malaysians, congratulations and use this opportunity to bring glory to the country," the Prime Minister said.

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar and Dr Faiz were among four aspirants who made the cut in the previous selection process that took them to Moscow for assessments.

Malaysia Airlines pilot Captain Mohammed Faiz Kamaludin, 34, and quality engineer S. Vanajah, 35, were gracious in offering congratulatory words to their two successful fellow astronaut trainees.

"I am very proud of what I have done so far. It has been a life-changing experience definitely. I have learned a lot about myself in this past one year," said Vanajah.

Mohammed Faiz took his unsuccessful attempt positively.

"I am all right. It was gratifying to get to meet all the different people from various fields of expertise, and being given the opportunity to go to Moscow itself," he said.

At the press conference, selection panel head Mohammed Haniff said that Vanajah didn't fare too well in the gravity test while Mohammed Faiz was let down by an unspecified medical problem.


Source: Berita Wilayah @ Bernama Online

Posted by site editor at 12:01 AM JST
Topic: - Selection Process

SEPADU: Empat calon angkasawan pada majlis pengumuman dua calon angkasawan bagi program angkasawan negara oleh PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Dari kiri Capt. Mohammed Faiz Kamaludin, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, Kapten Dr Faiz Khaleed dan S. Vanajah. - FOTO: Shaifuldin Ahmad

SEPANG: Pegawai perubatan Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor berharap dapat menjalani latihan 12 bulan di Rusia dengan cemerlang sebelum berpotensi mengukir nama sebagai angkasawan pertama negara menggembara ke destinasi yang hanya menjadi impian ramai.

Beliau dan doktor gigi Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM) Dr Faiz Khaleed dipilih sebagai dua calon angkasawan untuk merebut satu tempat di pesawat pelancar angkasa Rusia yang dijadual berlepas ke Stesen Angkasa Antarabangsa (ISS) pada 2 Sept tahun depan.

"Saya letakkan jiwa raga saya dalam program ini sejak dari awal lagi. Saya akan teruskan sehingga ke akhir," katanya kepada pemberita berikutan pengumuman pemilihan calon yang berjaya oleh Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi di sini.

Dijadual berlepas ke Rusia akhir bulan ini, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar, penuntut tahun akhir pengajian Surgeri Ortopedik peringkat sarjana, berkata mereka akan menempuh cuaca yang amat sejuk serta bergelut dengan bahasa Rusia.

Jejaka tampan kelahiran Petaling Jaya berusia 34 tahun itu menyifatkan kekuatan mental sebagai salah satu faktor utama yang membolehkan beliau dipilih.

"Menjadi seorang angkasawan bukan mengenai rupa wajah. Ia lebih kepada kekuatan mental, fizikal dan psikologi. Saya percaya saya dipilih berdasarkan merit," katanya apabila ditanya sama ada tanggapan populariti merupakan faktor dalam proses pemilihan calon.

Bangga dengan pemilihannya, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar berkata beliau amat berminat untuk menjalankan kajian tulang di angkasa, sesuai dengan later belakangnya dalam bidang ortopedik.

"Ini adalah peluang untuk saya membuktikan semangat Malaysia Boleh dan membanggakan negara," kata pensyarah pelatih di Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) itu.

Beliau berhenti daripada kerja sambilannya sebagai model enam bulan lepas. "Saya perlu menjadi model contoh dan bukan model. Saya amat gemar dalam bidang perubatan."

Sebelum itu, dalam sidang media, Menteri Sains, Teknologi dan Inovasi Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis berkata Dr Sheikh Muszaphar merupakan calon pilihan utama untuk berlepas ke angkasa manakala Dr Faiz sebagai calon simpanan.

"Namun ia tidak bermakna calon utama akan pergi. Apa pun boleh berlaku pada saat akhir dan ia mungkin Dr Faiz yang dapat pergi. Jadi kedua-dua mereka mempunyai peluang seimbang...kedua-dua akan menjalani latihan sama," katanya.

Katanya pemilihan muktamad calon untuk ke angkasa bergantung kepada nasihat Panel Pemilihan Angkasawan yang diketuai bekas ketua polis negara Tun Mohammed Hanif Omar.

Program latihan awal selama 18 bulan di Rusia telah dipendekkan kepada 12 bulan kerana para pegawai Rusia berpendapat calon angkasawan Malaysia memiliki kaliber tinggi, kata Dr Jamaluddin.

Katanya penyelidikan dan uji kaji yang dilakukan oleh angkasawan Malaysia akan berdasarkan sains hayat dengan penekanan kerajaan dalam bidang bioteknologi.

Katanya usaha dijalankan bagi mewujudkan saluran komunikasi antara rakyat biasa negara ini dan bakal angkasawan itu ketika mereka menjalani latihan dan apabila seorang calon itu berada di angkasa.

Sementara itu, Dr Faiz menjangkakan banyak cabaran di peringkat persiapan akhir dan secara perbadi tidak percaya pada sesiapa yang mengakui dia tidak gentar dan rasa takut.

"Semua orang mempunyai rasa gentar tetapi bagaimana anda mengatasinya. Kami banyak melakukan latihan dan perlu memberi tumpuan. Dalam pasukan tentera, kami diajar bagaimana mengatasi rasa ketakutan dan percaya kepada diri sendiri," kata doktor gigi dari Kuala Lumpur yang berusia 26 tahun itu.

Pemilihan tarikh 2 Sept 2007 bagi berlepas ke angkasa adalah signifikan kerana beberapa sebab.

Ia sempena sambutan Hari Kebangsaan ke-50 dan menandakan 40 tahun hubungan Malaysia-Rusia serta ulang tahun ke-50 pelancaran satelit buatan manusia, Sputnik, oleh negara Soviet pada 1957.

Dalam ucapannya, Abdullah berkata ia adalah langkah permulaan oleh Malaysia untuk membuktikan kemampuan dalam bidang penerbangan angkasa.

"Bagi pihak kerajaan dan semua rakyat Malaysia, tahniah dan gunakan peluang ini untuk mertabatkan nama Malaysia di persada antarabangsa," katanya.

Sebelum ini, pada 27 April lepas, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar dan Dr Faiz bersama dua lagi calon yang berjaya ke peringkat akhir pemilihan angkasawan negara -- juruterbang Penerbangan Malaysia (MAS) Mohamed Faiz Kamaluddin, 34, dan jurutera yang juga calon wanita tunggal, S.Vanajah, 35, berlepas ke Moscow, Rusia untuk menjalani ujian di Agensi Angkasa Rusia (RSA).

Mohamed Faiz dan Vanajah mengucapkan tahniah kepada dua calon yang berjaya itu.

"Saya amat bangga dengan apa yang saya lakukan setakat ini. Ia merupakan pengalaman yang mengubah hidup saya. Saya banyak belajar tentang diri saya sejak setahun lepas," kata Vanajah.

Mohammed Faiz menerima nasibnya dengan sikap positif.

"Saya ok...Pengalaman penting bagi diri saya ialah peluang bertemu dengan orang daripada pelbagai bidang kepakaran serta mendapat peluang ke Moscow," katanya.

Pada sidang media itu, Mohammed Haniff berkata Vanajah tidak mendapat keputusan baik dalam ujian graviti manakala Mohammed Faiz pula mengalami masalah kesihatan yang tidak diduga


Source: Bernama Online

Posted by site editor at 12:01 AM JST
Topic: - Selection Process

Malaysian astronauts to be Sheikh Muszaphar gShukor (L) and back-up astronaut Faiz Khaleed present themselves during the official announcement of Malaysia's first astronaut in Sepang on 4th September 2006. - PHOTO: Courtesy of AFP.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia on Monday unveiled its first astronaut, a 34-year-old doctor who will blast off on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and visit the International Space Station in September 2007.

Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor was the winner of a nationwide hunt which drew tens of thousands of hopefuls. Army dentist Faiz Khaleed, 26, was chosen as the back-up astronaut, or "angkasawan" as they are known in the Malay language.

"I pray to God that he will ensure the success of your mission and raise the profile of Malaysia in the international arena," Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said at a ceremony to announce the winning candidates.

The pair, who will now undergo a year of training in Moscow's Star City, came from a short list of four -- three men and one woman -- who spent a month in Russia undergoing tests to determine the best contender.

Sheikh Muszaphar, who is an orthopaedic doctor and a trainee lecturer in medicine with the National University of Malaysia, said he was realising a boyhood dream.

"I feel honoured and blessed to be picked," he told reporters. "I've always dreamt to go to space since I was 10 years old. My favourite TV programs have been Star Trek and the Star Wars movies."

Sheikh Muszaphar said the one-year stint in Russia would see the pair undergo survival training in difficult conditions such as wintry climes, at sea and in the jungle.

The astronauts will also learn how to conduct research and experiments in space, such as an examination of the behaviour in space of Malaysia's favourite beverage, a sweet concoction of tea and condensed milk called teh tarik.

The astronauts said the inclusion of teh tarik would showcase Malaysian culture and lend a unique Malaysian flavour to the mission.

"It's great. It is one of the symbols in Malaysia. The Italians introduced pizza in space," said runner-up Faiz Khaleed.

Sheikh Muszaphar's father, 70-year-old Sheikh Mustapha Shukor, said the mission was dangerous but that "we allowed him because this is his desire."

"Now that he is a representative of the nation, he must remain humble and carry the flag of Malaysia," he said.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Jamaluddin Jarjis said the launch date would be September 2 next year, which will fall near the 50th anniversary of Malaysia's independence and mark 40 years of diplomatic ties with Russia.

"This is an historic day as Malaysia celebrates its 50th independence anniversary. This date also commemorates Malaysia-Russian ties," he said.

The project was conceived in 2003 when Russia agreed to send a Malaysian to the space station as part of a billion-dollar purchase of 18 Sukhoi 30-MKM fighter jets.

It came at the end of the two-decade reign of then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, whose think-big attitude spawned a national catch-phrase -- "Malaysia Boleh!" or "Malaysia Can!" -- aimed at boosting national pride.

Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation, hopes the space project will be an inspiration for Muslims across the globe and recall the glory days of Islamic science and discovery.


Source: AFP @ This article also appeared in the Manila Times online on 6th September, 2006; and in the ABS-CBN Interactive website it appeared under the heading 'Malaysia Names First Astronaut'.

Posted by site editor at 12:01 AM JST
Topic: - Selection Process

KUALA LUMPUR: An ethnic Indian female engineer lost her bid to become Malaysia's first astronaut Monday, as the government whittled the finalists to an army dentist and a hospital medical officer.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced that either Faiz Khaleed, 26, or Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, 34, will take part in a Russian space expedition next year - likely becoming the first Muslim to launch into orbit in more than two decades.

The announcement dashed the hopes of engineer S. Vanajah, 35, who made headlines in March when she was named the only woman among four finalists who outlasted 11,000 other Malaysians who applied for the astronaut selection process in 2003.

Vanajah, Faiz, Sheikh Muszaphar and Malaysia Airlines pilot Mohammed Faiz Kamaluddin were sent to Moscow's Russian Space Agency for medical and technical tests to determine who would travel on a Russian rocket for a scientific mission on the International Space Station.

Faiz, an armed forces dentist, and Sheikh Muszaphar, a medical officer at the National University Hospital, are expected to return to Russia early next month for further training, the Science and Technology Ministry said in a statement.

But only one will have the chance to spend up to 10 days in October 2007 aboard the ISS. Vanajah, who was also the only ethnic Indian non-Muslim among the four finalists, has said she hopes to inspire other Malaysian women to participate in science-related projects.

Faiz and Sheikh Muszaphar are both Muslims from Malaysia's majority ethnic Malay community. Ethnic Indians, who are mainly Hindu, are the third largest racial group after the Chinese, comprising about 8 per cent of Malaysia's 26 million people.

Officials have said Malaysia's ambition to send someone into orbit could inspire other Muslim countries to embark on space exploration. The only known Muslim astronaut so far is Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan bin Salman, who went aboard the US shuttle Discovery in 1985.

Officials have estimated Malaysia's space program will cost around $25 million (euro20 million), but it is being offset as part of a $900 million (euro750 million) defense deal struck with Moscow in 2003 to buy 18 Sukhoi fighter jets.


Source: The Times (India) Online

Posted by site editor at 12:01 AM JST
Friday, 2 June 2006
Topic: - Selection Process

Malaysia will select the final two astronaut candidates next month, one of whom will be the first person going to space in the history of the country, an official said Thursday.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is expected to announce the names of the lucky two out of the four candidates when opening the Malaysian Space Center in Banting, Selangor state, said Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Jamaludin Jarjis.

The two final candidates will undergo an 18-month training program in Star City, Russia, Jamaludin told reporters after a brunch to welcome the return of the four candidates who had undergone tests and training in Russia.

The four candidates are Faiz Khaleed (dentist), Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor (doctor), S. Vanajah (engineer) and Mohammed Faiz Kamaludin (pilot).

Jamaludin said construction of the Malaysian Space Center started in 2004, with a cost of 15 million ringgit (4.05 million U. S. dollars).

It will enable the Malaysian astronaut, in his expedition to the International Space Station (ISS), to communicate with people in his home country, said Kamaludin.

In accordance with a contract signed with the Malaysian Defense Ministry, Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) will send Malaysia's first astronaut to the ISS in 2007.


Source: People's Daily Online

Posted by site editor at 12:01 AM JST
Wednesday, 15 March 2006
Topic: - Selection Process

Malaysia Tuesday announced the name list of four astronaut candidates selected to undergo training in Russia.

The four candidates are Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, 34, a medical doctor, Faiz Khaleed, 26, a dentist, S. Vanajah, 35, a woman engineer, and Mohammed Faiz Kamaluddin, 34, a pilot.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who announced the name list, said the candidates would receive training in Moscow either at the end of this month or early next month.

The government's decision to buy 18 Sukhoi SU-30MKN fighter jets from Russia gave birth to Malaysia's first astronaut program, said the deputy prime minister at the Royal Malaysia Air Force base near here.

To reciprocate Malaysia's purchase, the Russian government offered a place for a Malaysian astronaut to join the Russian astronauts on the expedition to the International Space Station ( ISS) in October.

Out of the four candidates, only two will be chosen for an 18- month training at the Star City Moscow and eventually only one candidate will go on the expedition to the ISS.


Source: People's Daily Online

Posted by site editor at 12:01 AM WST
Tuesday, 14 March 2006
Topic: - Selection Process

S. Vanajah, 35, and three Malay men will be sent to the Russian Space Agency in Moscow soon to undergo medical and technical tests that will determine who will take part in a scientific expedition on board the orbital station in 2007.

The other finalists are Malaysia Airlines pilot Mohammed Faiz Kamaluddin, 34; army dentist Faiz Khaleed, 26; and Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a 34-year-old hospital medical officer, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak announced.

Vanajah, who outlasted more than 11,000 other Malaysians who applied for the astronaut selection process in 2003, made national headlines last month when she was named as the only woman in a shortlist of eight people remaining in the competition.

Ethnic Indians comprise about 8 percent of Malaysia's 26 million people. The other three shortlisted candidates are from the majority Malay community.

Vanajah has previously said she hopes to inspire other Malaysian women to participate in science-related projects, saying her achievement proved that women could compete alongside men in rigorous trials.

The finalists have endured a battery of physical and psychological examinations, and officials said the remaining four were chosen on the basis of physical fitness, personality and preparedness, including family support.

The upcoming two-week round of tests in Russia - meant to examine the finalists' neurological fitness and ability to adapt to a weightless environment - will whittle their ranks to two candidates, each of whom will undergo 18 months of training at the Russian Space Agency.

But only one will have the chance to spend up to 10 days in October 2007 in a planned scientific expedition aboard the ISS, officials have said.

Officials have estimated Malaysia's space program will ultimately cost around US$25 million (euro20 million), but it will be offset as part of a US$900 million (euro750 million) defense deal struck with Moscow in 2003 to buy 18 Sukhoi Su-30 MKM fighter jets.



Posted by site editor at 12:01 AM WST

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