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Saturday September 23, 2006 (THE STAR)

No space for love during training


PUTRAJAYA: Marriage is not an option until 2008 for the final two candidates in the running to be Malaysia’s first man in space, but Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and Kapten Dr Faiz Khaleed are not allowing this to dampen their hopes of carrying the Jalur Gemilang into space next year. 

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar, 34, an orthopaedic surgeon with Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, admitted to having “someone special” who understood the clause. 

“She is very understanding and we both know how important this programme is to me.  

“I am ready to give my full commitment, my heart and soul, to be the first Malaysian in space. It is a sacrifice that we both have to make and I thank her for being understanding,” he said. 

LUNCH DATE: Kapten Dr Faiz (right) greeting Najib while Dr Sheikh Muszaphar and Rosmah look on during their meeting.

Kapten Dr Faiz, 26, a dentist with the Armed Forces, however, declined to say if he already had that “special someone”. 

“I have no problems signing a contract that stipulates I cannot get married over the next two years.  



Medical officer first choice
05 September, 2006

SEPANG: Medical officer Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and dentist Kapt Dr Faiz Khaleed have been selected to undergo a 12-month training under Malaysia's first astronaut programme in Russia.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced the successful candidates at Bunga Raya complex at the KL International Airport (KLIA) here, Monday.

They were chosen from 11,000 applicants since the Malaysian National Space Agency (Angkasa) started the screening campaign for the programme in 2003.

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar, 34, the first choice, is attached to the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia hospital, while Kapt Dr Faiz, 26, is with the Malaysian Defence Forces. Both who are bachelors, were selected by the Astronaut Selection Panel headed by former Inspector General of Police Tun Mohammed Hanif Omar.

Both Dr Sheikh Muszaphar and Kapt Dr Faiz will leave for the Yuri Gagarin Aerospace Training Centre at Star City in Moscow end of the month.

The professional training which the two finalists of Malaysia's astronaut programme will go through in Russia will qualify them as professional astronauts, allowing them to join a programme organised by the United States or other European nations.

Only one Malaysian astronaut will be chosen to rocket into space.

The successful candidate is scheduled to leave for the international space station (ISS) on Sept. 2 next year to undergo a research and development (R&D) programme,including research on cancer and biotechnology.

Malaysia's first astronaut will board Russia's space launcher Soyuz 2 before it is finally connected to the international space station.

At the station, he will spend six to eight days to carry out research in science and technology for the benefit of the Malaysian space science industry before returning to earth.

On April 27, the two candidates together with two others, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) pilot Mohamed Faiz Kamaluddin, 34, and an engineer, the sole woman candidate, S.Vanajah, 35, left for Moscow for training at the Russian Space Agency. (RSA).

The four candidates underwent training from the physical, physiological and psychological aspects.

The local astronaut programme came about following the purchase of 18 Sukhoi Su-30MKN jetfighters from Russia worth US$1 billion (about RM3.4 billion) and in reciprocity, the Russian government offered one seat for a Malaysian astronaut to join their astronauts in an expedition to the ISS next year.- Bernama

 “I know how important it is to give full concentration to the programme and I know that I need to remain focused. I pretty much understand the importance of staying single for the time being,” he said. 

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis said recently that the two candidates had signed a contract that stipulated they could not get married until 2008 to ensure full concentration during the training programme. 

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar and Kapt Dr Faiz will leave for Russia on Tuesday to continue with their training programme, which includes Russian language classes. 

As for mementos, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar is taking along photographs of his family and loved ones while Kapt Dr Faiz has CDs of songs he and his family love to sing along to. He said his favourite song is Ronan Keating’s When You Say Nothing At All

“It will be interesting to experience Ramadan in Russia. The weather is not warm and we have been told there will not be much physical activity in the early stages, but we still have our normal daily workouts,” said Kapt Dr Faiz. 

Deputy Prime Minister’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor hosted lunch for the two astronauts yesterday. Also present were Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Dr Jamaluddin and National Space Agency director-general Prof Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman.  

Speaking briefly to reporters, Najib said the Government and Malaysians were proud of the courage and dedication showed by the two candidates, and that their upcoming trip to Russia would take them to a more challenging phase of their training. 

“On behalf of the Government, I bid them farewell, good luck and all the best. We are all proud of them,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Dr Jamaluddin said the Cabinet had authorised his ministry to arrange with Russian space authorities for research to be conducted when the Malaysian astronaut was in space next year. 

“The Cabinet has given my ministry the authority to proceed with the arrangements to sign an agreement with Russia to conduct experiments and research in space.  

“This is a new development and we will announce the areas of research once the agreement has been finalised,” he said.  


Astronaut Aspirants Full Of Hope For Glory



SEPANG, Sept 4 (Bernama) -- 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.





Malaysian Astronaut Proves Islam No Hindrance To Progress

BANTING, Oct 4 (Bernama) -- The space experience of Malaysia's first astronaut of Islamic faith will prove to the world that Islam is not a hindrance to progress.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the needs of the national astronaut who would travel to the International Space Station had been looked into considering he is a Muslim.

He said guidelines for the astronaut to carry out his routine and prayers in the space station had been issued during a seminar held early this year.

"We want our astronaut to show to the world that Islam is not a hindrance to progress even while exploring space," he said when opening the National Space Centre in Sungai Lang, here Wednesday.

Two trainee astronauts, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and Kapten Dr Faiz Khaleed, are in Russia to undergo one-year training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre before one of them is selected for the journey into space.

At the ceremony, Abdullah also held a video conference with the two astronauts for about five minutes.

Apart from asking about their health, Abdullah also asked about their training and informed them that Malaysians were placing their hopes on the two astronauts to do the country proud.

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar and Dr Faiz were happy to receive the video call from the Prime Minister. They told him that they were learning Russian and getting acclimatised with the training centre's surroundings.

"We are treated very well," said Dr Sheikh Muszaphar when asked by Abdullah about the centre's service.

Dr Faiz said both were getting a lot of invitations to break fast from Malaysians staying in Russia.

"At least you got to meet Malaysians. Once in space, there will be no more chance to see Malaysians," Abdullah said in jest.

Abdullah advised the two astronauts to learn as much as they could from the programme and to take care of their health.



Four M'sian Astronaut Candidates Depart For Russia

SPACE MISSION… Four candidates to be selected as Malaysia's first astronaut (from left) Mohamed Faiz Kamaluddin, Vanajah Subramaniam, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and Dr Faiz Khalid in high spirit before their departure to Russia. Pix: Shahrizan Jeffri Aziz

SEPANG, April 28 (Bernama) -- Four candidates to be selected as Malaysia's first astronaut left for Russia Thursday night to undergo a minimum of two-weeks of tests at the Russian Space Agency (RSA).

The four are Malaysian Armed Forces specialist dental surgeon Dr Faiz Khaleed, 26, Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia medical officer Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, 34, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) pilot Mohamed Faiz Kamaluddin, 34, and engineer S. Vanajah, 35, the only woman candidate.

They departed from the KL International Airport (KLIA) at 11.30 pm on a MAS flight bound for Paris. The journey to Russia will take 16 hours and 30 minutes.

Science, Technology and Innovations Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis and the Director-General of the Malaysian Space Agency, Prof Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman were also at the airport together with family members and friends of the four astronaut candidates.

At a press conference earlier, Jamaludin said the four candidates would undergo another series of tests for at least two weeks at the RSA before two candidates were chosen for the final 18-month training at the Star City, Moscow.

He said the selected candidate would create history as Malaysia's first astronaut who would board the Russian spaceship Soyuz in October 2007 to carry out an expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) which would benefit the Malaysian science and technology industry.

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar, when asked to comment on the mission, said: "We know that this is not a game or a vacation. We will make Malaysians proud and we will do our best and everybody has equal chances."

Meanwhile, S.Vanajah said: "I also think that we might be having communication problems at the beginning but I think we would overcome it as we have learnt the language here."

Mohamed Faiz, who was accompanied by wife Hazel Abu Samah, 35, and his two children Noah Aiman, six, and Alesyha Iman, two, was looking forward to the trip to help realise the national project and was confident all four would pass the tests they would face in Russia.

For Dr Faiz, besides the excitement of going to Paris, he is well aware of his responsibilities and has high hopes of emerging as the nation's first astronaut.

The government announced the programme to find Malaysia's first astronaut in August 2003. More than 1,000 aspiring candidates from various backgrounds took up the challenge.

The astronaut venture is part of a package by the Russian government for Malaysia's purchase of 18 Sukhoi SU-30MKM fighter jets from the republic.




Astronaut training may be shown live on Internet


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians may get to watch the country’s two astronauts undergo training “live” on the Internet. 

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Jamaludin Jarjis said he would discuss the matter with the Russian Space Agency during his trip to Moscow next month.  

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and Kapt Dr Faiz Khaleed, who have been selected for Malaysia’s first astronaut programme, are now undergoing training in Russia. 

“It will be a golden opportunity for Malaysians to follow developments on the training sessions before one of the two astronauts leaves for the International Space Station on Sept 2 next year,” said Dr Jamaludin. 

“This is a form of technology transfer between both countries and I hope our Russian counterparts will agree to the idea,” he told reporters after the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the vascular interventional radiology suite and magnetic resonance imaging scanner at the Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre (GIMC) here yesterday. 

Also present were GIMC chief executive officer Stuart Pack, German Ambassador Herbert Jess, Siemens chief executive officer Rainer Althoff and Meditel Sdn Bhd’s chief executive officer Shaun Seery. 

Dr Jamaludin said he would be meeting up with the two astronauts in Russia to check on their training.  

“Based on the information I received from Russia, the two are adjusting well in their physical training and Russian language classes,” he added. 

On another matter, Dr Jamaludin said there was a need for the medical sector to come up with the latest and most sophisticated technologies in order to boost the medical tourism industry and to create new jobs that would attract the younger generation.