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Wednesday November 15, 2006

Malaysia's first astronaut to do what no one in space has done before


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's first astronaut will do what no one in space has done before: play traditional Malay children's games without gravity. 

The astronaut - yet to be selected - will play "batu seremban,'' or "five stones'' and spin traditional Malay tops in space, Agriculture Ministry parliamentary secretary Rohani Abdul Karim told parliament on Wednesday. 

Rohani, who was replying on behalf of the Science, Technology and Innovations Ministry, said the astronaut would also do batik painting and making teh tarik. 

She said this in reply to comments made by MPs on what the Malaysian astronaut might do in the International Space Station. 

Rohani said the training programme for the Malaysian astronaut in Russia would not cost the Treasury a single sen. 

Replying to Datuk Dr Marcus Mojigoh (BN-Putatan), she said the programme was provided free of charge as part of an offset programme for the purchase pf Sukhoi fighter aircraft from Russia. 

She said the benefits of the programme for the country were numerous, including the opportunity to conduct scientific experiments in space. 

“Such experiments will also be studied by our own scientists in the medical, science and educational fields.  

“Schoolchildren will be further motivated to increase their interests in science and technology when our astronaut holds a live teleconference with students from several selected schools,” she said, adding that the astronaut would also conduct several experience on micro-gravity in front of the television camera. 

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and Kapten Dr Faiz Khaleed, who had been selected for Malaysia’s first astronaut programme, are now undergoing training for a year in Russia before departing for the International Space Station.  

Only one of them will board a Russian rocket for eight days of space travel on Sept 2 next year.  

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