Malaysia’s Second Space Mission On, But Not Soon

KUALA LUMPUR,  Nov 24 – Malaysia plans to have its second astronaut stay in the International Space Station for weeks or months instead of days, but the second space mission is unlikely to take place soon – at least not in the next couple of years.

National Space Agency Director-General Dr Mustafa Subari said time was necessary to work out the details of the preparations and for the negotiation process with potential collaborators.

A few things had to be sorted out before the mission could be launched, including partnership and the types of experiment to be conducted on board the ISS, he told Bernama.

He gave the assurance, however, that the programme had received the nod from the government, considering the benefits it would bring to the nation.

“It is ongoing but it won’t happen in the next few years, maybe at the end of the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP). But the commitment given by the government under the 10MP is a good start,” he said.

Mustafa said the agency was still in the midst of negotiating with potential collaborators such as the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) in order to provide the necessary facilities and arrangements.

“To date, the negotiations are still not finalised. We haven’t got any concrete proposals from them as yet,” he said.

He said that unlike the first mission, Malaysia planned to send the second astronaut on a longer mission to the ISS. Malaysia’s first astronaut Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor spent only 10 days in the ISS in October 2007 and conducted five experiments.

“It (the last mission) was quite short. So, for the second mission, we hope to have the astronaut stay longer in the ISS, maybe a few weeks to months, so that he can carry out more scientific experiments on micro gravity,” he said.

Recently, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili was reported as saying that the Cabinet had agreed to continue the astronaut programme under the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015).

However, no allocation has been set aside for the second mission as yet although allocations have been given for space training and education purposes.

Mustafa said he estimated that at least US$20 million (about RM62.5 million)  was needed to fund the project.

He also said that Malaysia would have to launch another search for backup astronaut candidates once the second mission was launched.

Major Dr Faiz Khaleed, who was the backup astronaut for the first mission, has been named as the most potential astronaut for the second mission.

Lagi Berita