PETALING JAYA, Feb 8 (Bernama) -- Science, Technology and Innovations Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis, Wednesday announced the names of eight candidates who have passed the seventh stage screening to become Malaysian astronauts.
They are Norazlan Shah Mahadi, 36, project manager; Kelvin Lim Hock Seong, 25, pilot; Mohammed Faiz Kamaludin, 34, pilot; Mohd Bostami Ahmad, 25, styling designer, Muhammad Husaini Hashim, 25, engineer; S. Vanajah, 35, engineer (female); Dr Syeikh Muszaphar Shukor, 34, medical doctor and Faiz Khaleed, 26, dental surgeon.
Dr Jamaluddin made the announcement at the Malaysian Meteorological Department here, after chairing his ministry's post-cabinet meeting.
Of the eight candidates, only four would be selected to undergo thorough medical tests for two weeks in Russia, stipulated by the Russian Space Agency.
The names of the four candidates would be announced by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak by the middle of next month, he said.
Of the four candidates, only two would be selected for training at the Star City, Moscow for 18 months.
Their names would be announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said Dr Jamaluddin.
He said all the candidates for the Malaysian astronauts were chosen based on their physical and mental health as well as their personality according to the criteria stipulated by the Russian and the United States Space Agencies.
He said they would undergo further screening which was more focused on their personality before only four would be selected to undergo tests in Russia.
Only one Malaysian astronaut would follow the expedition to the International Space Station scheduled for October next year.
The National Space Agency (ANGKASA) had received 11,000 applications since the offer to undergo the programme was made in 2003.
Of the total, 435 candidates were chosen for the first trial, which was a 3.5 km run within a time of 20 minutes, and 199 candidates qualified for the second stage. Of that number, 194 came for the medical check where only 59 candidates passed.
Subsequently, only 27 candidates came for the first stage aeromedical test and all the 27 candidates qualified for the second stage aeromedical test and the survival test, before 10 people qualified for the next stage of trials.
The selection of the eight astronaut candidates was made by an eight-member technical committee comprising health experts, aeromedical experts and clinical psychology consultants.
The local astronaut programme came about following the purchase of 10 Sukhoi Su-30MKN jetfighters worth RM3.42 billion from Russia and in reciprocity, the Russian government offered one seat for a Malaysian astronaut to join their astronauts in an expedition to the ISS in October next year.
Dr Jamaludin said besides raising Malaysia's world image in the field of science, the country's involvement in sending its astronaut would also be beneficial in terms of development in the field of space science research.
He said the selection of four out of the eight existing candidates would be made by the Astronaut Selection Panel headed by former Inspector-General of Police Tun Haniff Omar after getting the report from the Technical Committee following the personality screening in Kuala Lumpur.