Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Malaysian in outer space

I have not paid much attention to all the hype since the idea of sending the first Malaysian to space was mooted and eventually realised. If you ask me, I can only recall that the media provided ample coverage of the shortlisting of candidates leading to the two finalists. And finally two days before the Muslim Hari Raya, a Dr Sheikh-something who is also a part-time model, as reported by the papers, joined the esteemed crew, led by an American female (girl power!) commander, on board a space shuttle (don't ask me its name) to blast off from Kazakhstan into space and subsequently board the ISS space station.

Okay, that's as much as I know from not being able to avoid the in-your-face news last week and Astro's constant announcement of their dedicated channel 588 to keep Malaysians posted on Dr Sheikh's outer space experience.

In between, I get forwarded emails from friends mocking the disparity of how our Malaysian is labelled. We have proudly referred to him as our 'angkasawan' or astronaut. From the emails, I learnt that the NASA website calls him a 'flight participant', and of course, whoever authored the original email added "...or tourist?"

One day before Dr Sheikh blasts off, I received an SMS from a journalist friend of mine attached to an English daily asking me to contribute my comments and a message to our 'angkasawan'. I replied to her that I honestly did not have anything to say as I did not think very much of this achievement. This started me wondering what actually would Malaysia gain from sending one citizen out there. How would his experience contribute to the bigger picture of Malaysia's advancement in this field of aerospace technology in the bigger picture? Wouldn't sending a Malaysian team of aerospace experts (if we do have any) to work and learn from the Americans and Russians be better? I don't know so I shall not say more.

Then today, I received another email with this attachment. Call me ignorant or behind the times (I'm sure many of you already knew this) but this takes the cake and prompted me to write this post.

After I read it, something went "ding!" in my head. RM95 million?! I believe my thoughts echo what this news report from The Age Melbourne (15 November 2006) has pointed out so aptly.

As a Malaysian, I'm glad Malaysia has been 'boleh' in some ways but I think, we could have saved some of the 'bolehs' for better causes....

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