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Sunday April 29, 2012

The next space mission

IT has been five years since Mejar Dr Faiz Khaleed was part of the reserve team for the space mission our first Malaysian in space, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Sheikh Mustapha, went on.

Although it was initially anticipated that Dr Faiz would be able to go into space in 2010 or 2011, financial considerations came into play, with the Government choosing to prioritise other socioeconomic projects instead.

However, the second space mission is still on, even though it is currently on hold.

The armed forces dentist is still on secondment to the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, working with the National Space Agency (Angkasa).

“Angkasa is trying not to rush the second programme – it’s not just about the astronauts; there’s the work of the scientists, as well as our relations with Russia to consider,” explains Dr Faiz.

Currently, places on the planned Russian space missions have been spoken for up to 2015, so we won’t be seeing our fellow Malaysian up in space any time soon.

“But this waiting period is good to lay a very strong foundation. We have learnt from the first programme that there is a lot of space for improvement.”

At the moment, he shares that Angkasa is in discussions with the Russian space authority over sending him for further, advanced astronaut training.

But in the meantime, he is being kept busy with the ministry’s space awareness, and creativity and innovation programmes, which require him to travel around the country, speaking to school and university students, as well as members of the public.

He also keeps his hand in dentistry by practising twice a week at government clinics, whenever he can fit it in his schedule.

As a fitness enthusiast, keeping himself fit and ready for the upcoming space mission is not a chore.

“I exercise at least four times a week, but I try for six times a week, if possible, combining cardiovascular conditioning, like running, and weight training.

“And I’m very particular about my diet. I always eat according to my activities. For example, if I exert myself, I’ll eat more; if not, I’ll eat moderately,” he says.

He shares that sometimes this can be difficult in social situations, especially when hanging out with friends at eating places, or at functions, which inevitably serve food.

“You just have to be disciplined, even though the food is very delicious,” he says, adding that people have to understand the purpose behind why they are eating – to fulfil their hunger, to be social, the good taste or other reasons.

Because of his busy schedule, he finds it hard to get to the gym most days, so, he has a treadmill, some weights, and a multipurpose exercise bench at home.

He alternates between lower body and upper body exercises on different days, as well as balancing between cardiovascular and muscle mass training.

“It’s very important to balance both as you can’t do too much of one without the other,” he explains.

Even when he is travelling, Dr Faiz has a set of exercises that can be done in a hotel room, just using the furniture available.

Unlike most of us, working out is obviously a pleasure for Dr Faiz, while disciplining himself on food has become second nature.

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