Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Malaysia Narrows Astronaut Search to Four Candidates

An ethnic Indian female engineer was named Tuesday as one of four people shortlisted to become Malaysia's first astronaut and travel to the International Space Station (ISS) next year aboard a Russian rocket.

S. Vanajah, 35, and three Malay men will be sent to the Russian Space Agency in Moscow soon to undergo medical and technical tests that will determine who will take part in a scientific expedition on board the orbital station in 2007.

The other finalists are Malaysia Airlines pilot Mohammed Faiz Kamaluddin, 34; army dentist Faiz Khaleed, 26; and Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a 34-year-old hospital medical officer, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak announced.

Vanajah, who outlasted more than 11,000 other Malaysians who applied for the astronaut selection process in 2003, made national headlines last month when she was named as the only woman in a shortlist of eight people remaining in the competition.

Ethnic Indians comprise about 8 percent of Malaysia's 26 million people. The other three shortlisted candidates are from the majority Malay community.

Vanajah has previously said she hopes to inspire other Malaysian women to participate in science-related projects, saying her achievement proved that women could compete alongside men in rigorous trials.

The finalists have endured a battery of physical and psychological examinations, and officials said the remaining four were chosen on the basis of physical fitness, personality and preparedness, including family support.

The upcoming two-week round of tests in Russia – meant to examine the finalists' neurological fitness and ability to adapt to a weightless environment – will whittle their ranks to two candidates, each of whom will undergo 18 months of training at the Russian Space Agency.
But only one will have the chance to spend up to 10 days in October 2007 in a planned scientific expedition aboard the ISS, officials have said.

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Mani said...

Wish You all the Best to Vanaja.
Ungal post'kum Nandri.


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