Friday, October 12, 2007

Congratulations To Our "Astronok"

Last night, Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar blasted off into space on a Russian rocketship (sorry, Proton doesn't do aerospace) and became Malaysia's first astronok. God knows what else he'll be doing in the International Space Station aside from his crystal & cell growth experiments. I hope he wasn't pressured to do that experiment with teh-tarik in zero gravity. News about hot tea splashing around the ISS and shorting out onboard electronics isn't a good way to put Malaysia in the news...

Many folks I know have been skeptical about the program and consider it a waste of state funds, especially since we made a U$25 million deal with the Russians for the trip. What's not mentioned is that we don't have to settle the bill. The Russians will actually be paying the costs of this program, since its part of a defense deal we made with them to purchase some new Su-30 fighter planes for our Air Force.

So we get to send a guy to space free of charge, in addition to some nice new toys to scare Singapore and Indonesia with. Nice eh? Wait... how much did they charge per plane?

Yes, perhaps Dr.Muszaphar is only along for the ride and to do a couple of experiments. I still relish the fact that we're now one of the many nations that have put a man in space. But launching a guy into space on somebody else's space program and robot does not automatically make us a developed nation, especially since this does little for the Malaysian aerospace industry considering that:
  • all the training were done by the Russians under the Russian space agency
  • Dr.Muszaphar was sent to space on a Russian built and owned rocketship
  • we don't have the means, and serious plans, for stuff like jet propulsion research centers, space ports, rocket assembly facilities, and stuff like that
Now, we don't have to build our own Proton Pluto Gen2, but there is a wealth of aerospace science and engineering which we could learn from the Russians on the sideline. We can use these to develop our own homegrown equipment that perhaps can be used on the ISS, and perhaps find some commercial use. I hope our academics and scientists did take the advantage to learn the most out of this opportunity. Although knowing the poor state of research in our local varsities nowadays, I won't be surprised if they let this fly by them.

Anyway, have a nice Raya in space Dr.Muszaphar. Stay safe and come back in one piece.