Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Malaysia sends a space tourist only

My friend, Ronnie Liu, wrote an article on “Astrocannaut” describing that the RM684 million spent by the government to send the first so called “astronaut” into the space in a few weeks time is only described as “spaceflight participant” by USA National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

This is how our Dr Sheikh Muzhaphar Shukor is introduced in NASA website:

The Expedition 16 crew members pose for a portrait at the Johnson Space Center. From the left (front row) are Russia's Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, flight engineer and Soyuz commander; astronaut Peggy Whitson, commander; and Malaysian spaceflight participant Sheikh Muzhaphar Shukor. From the left (back row) are European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Léopold Eyharts, astronaut Garrett Reisman and astronaut Dan Tani, all flight engineers.


Scrolling down the webpage, you can see more. While Sheikh Muzhaphar’s colleagues, who all are experienced spacecraft engineer and commander, are tasked with numerous duties when in the space, but Sheikh Muzhaphar’s task list seems to be zero.

Before that, we were informed that this first Malaysian in the space will carry out numerous experiments, including how to make the-tarik and roti canai in the space, especially determining the direction of kiblat when in space.

Have a look at Expedition 16’s photos. You can hardly find Sheikh Muzhaphar in action except here, here and here.

I decided to look for a little more about the definition of an astronaut (or cosmonaut in Russian).

The Britannica really have a lot of this.

I just extracted some important part of the article for your convenient reading.

Astronaut training are divided grossly into two system, i.e. the US system and the Russian system.

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has selected two different types of individuals as astronaut candidates. One group is required to have extensive flying experience in jet aircraft. These astronaut candidates are trained to serve as shuttle pilots and eventually shuttle mission commanders. The second group is chosen to become mission specialist astronauts. These candidates are not required to be pilots (though some are); rather, they are individuals with advanced scientific, medical, or engineering training or experience. Since 1992, in anticipation of participating in missions to the International Space Station (ISS), a number of individuals from various countries have become international mission specialist astronaut candidates.

Astronaut candidates participate in an intense one-to-two-year training program at NASA's Johnson Space Center, in Houston. They learn shuttle and space station systems, guidance and navigation, orbital dynamics, and materials processing as well as mathematics, geology, meteorology, oceanography, astronomy, and physics. They are also trained in land and sea survival, scuba diving, space suits, and weightlessness. After successfully completing their training, candidates are designated NASA career astronauts.

In addition to pilots and mission specialist astronauts, who expect to fly on several space missions during their time at NASA, there is a third category of individuals who have gone into space on the shuttle. These individuals are designated payload
specialists. The specialists are required to carry out experiments or payload activities with which they are particularly familiar.

And this is the Russian system.

In the Russian space program there have traditionally been two categories of
cosmonauts—mission commanders (who are usually pilots) and flight engineers.

Training for cosmonaut candidates, which happens at the Yury Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia, near Moscow, includes two years of general topics related to spaceflight, after which they are designated cosmonauts, and then up to two years of training on spaceflight hardware. Only then may an individual be assigned to a specific mission, with one or more additional years of training required before launch.

So, that means a proper astronaut or cosmonaut training programme could eat up to years before you can really take a lift into the space. I am sure Sheikh Muzhaphar does not fall into any of these categories.

What is more outraging is the last paragraph of the article:

A few individuals have traveled into space as private citizens. Some have been sponsored by their employers, as was Japanese television journalist Akiyama Tohiro, who reported from the Mir space station in December 1990. Others, like U.S. entrepreneur Dennis Tito, South African businessman Mark Shuttleworth, U.S. businessman Gregory Olsen, Iranian-born U.S. engineer Anousheh Ansari, and Hungarian-born U.S. computer software executive Charles Simonyi, who made brief trips to the ISS aboard a Russian spacecraft between 2001 and 2007, used their own resources to pay the multimillion-dollar price for the voyage. Such individuals are designated spaceflight participants or “space tourists.”

So, “spaceflight participant” is also referred as “space tourist”.

So, Malaysians spent RM684 million just to send a “space tourist” into the space. If that’s the case, why is so special about Sheikh Muzhaphar for being selected for the task?

So, would this also means that Malaysian government is the first government on earth to sponsor a person to travel in the space when this has always been a luxurious spending for those filthy rich and famous?

It is a real Malaysia Boleh in shame.

Can somebody ask Sheikh Muzhaphar questions on what exactly he has done up in the sky and what kind of technology has he mestered or whether he can handled a spacecraft?

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