AUG 26, 2003 TUE

Wanted: Malaysia's first cosmonaut; no age limit

KUALA LUMPUR - Calling all Malaysians in possession of good health and a clear mind - apply to be the country's first cosmonaut.
And age is no bar.
The National Space Agency expects nearly 1,000 people to be in the queue when it begins the process at the end of this year to select candidates with the right stuff.
Dr Mazlan Othman, director-general of Outer Space Science Studies, on Sunday said any Malaysian could apply and there was no age limit.
'The candidates will be tested for their intelligence and also from the aspect of psychology,' she said.
Potential candidates must be fit and academically qualified.
'I have met the Russians in June and we are in the process of drawing up the criteria,' she said. Speaking at a function held in conjunction with the National Day celebrations at the National Planetarium, Dr Mazlan explained that candidates would go through several rounds of screening.
The successful candidate would be sent to Russia for training that would last about 1 1/2 years before venturing into space by 2005.
'The Malaysian cosmonaut will be in space for eight days at the International Space Station,' she said.
Responding to a question, Dr Mazlan said the Science, Technology and Environment Ministry would discuss with employers the possibility of granting leave with full pay for candidates.
Universities and schools would be invited to give proposals - through a National Competition for Scientific Research - on the kind of experiments that could be conducted in outer space.
The plan to send a Malaysian into space is part of a deal struck for the country's purchase of 18 Sukhoi fighter jets worth US$900 million (S$1.6 billion) from Russia, Defence Minister Najib Tun Razak said earlier this month. -- Bernama, The Star/Asia News Network