Malaysian In Space 2005

On the first week of August, our Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohammad announced that Malaysia is going to send its astronaut to space through Russian space program most probably in 2005. This announcement has impressed many Malaysians. A local telecommunication company and a TV channel were so impressed that they produce an advertisement on the particular channel showing Malaysian astronaut on the surface of the moon.

Actually not many Malaysians realize that sending astronaut through Russian space program is quite ordinary as long as the astronaut is a citizen of a friendly country to Russia. Currently, Malaysia has a friendly relationship with Russia in terms of economic, diplomatic and cultural relationship. Malaysia has been a loyal customer of the Russian military aerospace industry when our country bought MiG-29s and is buying other combat aircraft from them.

In 1976, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) has announced that they will send guest cosmonauts (astronauts) from the countries, which are members of INTERKOSMOS (International Space Organization formed in April 1967 and influenced by USSR).

The first group of guest cosmonauts, were 6 candidates from Czeckoslovakia, Poland and East Germany, who arrived at Gagarin Cosmonaut Traning Center, at Star City, in Kazakstan in December 1976. 10 more candidates arrived later in 1978 and 1979 from Bulgaria, Hungary, Cuba, Mongolia, Romania and Vietnam. After that, candidates from France, India dan Syria have arrived between1980 and 1985.

These countries have sent at least 2 astronaut candidates to be trained as guest cosmonauts. These astronauts will be sent to space via Soyuz launch vehicle and assigned to perform specific activities aboard space station Salyut. Many of them have succeeded including candidates from Vietnam, Mongolia and India.

The candidate from Vietnam, Pham Tuan became the first Asian astronaut, when he was selected as the guest cosmonaut in Soyuz 37 space mission on July 1980. Pham Tuan has spent 8 days with Russian cosmonaut, Viktor Gorbhato in the mission. He has also perform activities with 2 other Russian cosmonauts aboard space station Salyut on the same mission.

The candidate from Mongolia, Jugderdemidyn Gurragcha was selected as the guest cosmonaut in Soyuz 39 space mission in March 1981. The Mongolian has spent 8 days with Russian cosmonaut, Vladimir Dzharibekov in the mission and 7 days with 2 other Russian cosmonauts aboard space station Salyut.

The candidate from India, Rakesh Sharma became the guest cosmonaut in the Soyuz T-11 space mission on April 1984, and accompanied Russian cosmonauts, Yuri Malyshev and Gennady Strekalov. Rakesh also spent 1 week aboard space station Salyut with 2 other Russian cosmonauts.

Vietnam, Mongolia and India are among the Asian countries, which are pioneering the sending of astronaut to space. There are other Asian countries, which have also sent their astronauts to space either through the Russian space program or United States space program. The American or NASA space program has also sent many Asians to space as astronauts.

Among the earliest Asian astronaut sent to space by NASA through the space shuttle mission is a royal prince of Saudi Arabia, Sultan Al-Saud. He is the first Arab and Muslim astronaut.

Sultan Al-Saud was launched aboard space shuttle Discovery on June 17, 1985, the last date of Ramadhan of that year. The prince has conducted a scientific experiment designed by the Saudi Arabia University of Petroleum & Mineral aboard the space shuttle.

An Indonesian almost became the first Malay astronaut through a NASA space program. A woman scientist of Indonesian citizen, Sudarmono Pratiwi was selected as mission specialist astronaut aboard a space shuttle mission scheduled for launch in June 1986. However the mission was cancelled due to the space shuttle Challenger accident which has killed all its astronauts on January of the same year.

On October this year, China will send its astronaut via its own space mission using its own launch vehicle. If China succeed, it will become the first Asian country, which sent its astronaut with its own launch vehicle, and the 3rd country in the world, which has the capability to send astronaut to space.

The Malaysian government should consider several critical matters. Since Russia no longer has its own space station in orbit, its cosmonaut capsule has to dock at International Space Station. Will other parties, which administer the space station, especially NASA allow Malaysian guest cosmonaut aboard the space station?

If Malaysian guest cosmonaut is allowed aboard the space station, what activity will he/she do there. Can he/she conduct a scientific experiment?

Malaysia can only really benefit from the program if the Malaysian cosmonaut can be allowed to conduct a scientific experiment aboard the space station, since the Vietnamese, Mongolian and Indian guest cosmonauts did conduct scientific experiments for their countries aboard the space station Salyut.

So, besides sending an astronaut, Malaysia should also consider sending an experiment to space. The experiment actually can be more prestigious than the astronaut, if it is carefully designed. Therefore, Malaysian government scientific agencies and universities should start thinking about the experiment.

After the Malaysian astronaut return safely to Earth, he must perform a very special activity. He must come back to Malaysia and go to all corners of the country especially to villages to meet the youths and teenagers to tell them about his journey in order to motivate them. Then the astronaut must visits schools, colleges and universities to talk to the students. The astronaut must be an example of a successful and useful citizen of Malaysia. Lets hope that he does not conduct his post-space activities via the internet only.

Today, there are already many astronauts from Asian countries and other countries other than Russia and United States. The development of space tourism has also contributed to this.

The first African astronaut, Mark Shuttleworth is a space tourist. He spent his holiday aboard International Space Station for 8 days in July 2002 via the Russian Soyuz space mission. He also conducted a scientific experiment on AIDS aboard the space station.

Up to date, there are hundreds of astronauts, and about 20% of them are not Russian or American. By 2005, the number will be a lot greater since there may be passenger spacecraft serving space tourism business.

By that time, there are spacecraft that can take passengers to sub-orbital space everyday because the ticket fees for sub-orbital flight can be as low as RM 100 000.00 per person per flight. Therefore there will be so many astronauts by 2005, the year Malaysia plan to send its first astronaut to space. Some of the space tourists/astronauts may be Malaysians.

Anyway like we always say to comfort ourselves, “better late than never.".

WAN KRISTINA <> - 18.08.2003
If there is any doubt, please contact Mr. Norul Ridzuan Zakaria, the President of IKAM at

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