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Malaysian astronaut: The final 4 with...
Minderjeet Kaur and Rina De Silva
From New Straits Times Online of March 15, 2006
PETALING JAYA, Tues. - It's down to the final four Malaysian astronaut candidates. And one of them is a woman, engineer S. Vanajah.
The other three are Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, dentist Dr Faiz Khaleed and pilot Mohammed Faiz Kamaluddin. They were the final group whittled down from the initial 11,000 applicants.
The announcement was made today by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who said the final four had been found to be competent after all the mental and physical tests.
"We adopted a very scientific and objective approach in selecting the astronauts, because the one person who will finally represent the country should be better than the others," he said at the Royal Malaysia Air Force base in Subang .
He said the selected candidates would next undergo two weeks of stringent training in Moscow, after which the final two would be selected.
Both the chosen candidates will undergo a further 18-month stint at Star City Moscow, before the final person is picked for the International Space Station (ISS) expedition in October next year.
Malaysia's astronaut programme was part of a package deal arising from Malaysia's purchase of 18 Sukhoi SU-30MKN fighter jets from Russia.
Najib added that the Russian Government had offered in return a place for a Malaysian to join Russian cosmonauts on the expedition to the ISS in October.
"The entire process has generated a lot of national interest and the person finally selected has to be the creme de la creme," he said.
"That candidate will be representing Malaysia."