Deal signed on launch of first Malaysian astronaut


Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 20 May 2006 0234 hrs

Deal signed on launch of first Malaysian astronaut

MOSCOW - Officials from Russia’s arms export agency and Malaysia’s defence ministry signed a contract Friday on sending a Malaysian into space for the first time to stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the arms export agency Rosoboronexport said.

The Malaysian will blast into space aboard a Soyuz rocket in the autumn of next year on one of the regular flights to the ISS, the agency said in a statement.

“Under the agreement, the Malaysian astronaut is to visit the ISS not only as a ‘space tourist’ but also as a participant in a research programme that is currently being worked out” by the two sides, the statement said.

The agreement on launching Malaysia’s first astronaut is part of a deal worth nearly one billion dollars under which Malaysia is to buy a batch of Russian Sukhoi 30-MKM military jets, the ITAR-TASS news agency said.

A final decision on the choice of astronaut has still to be taken.

The four finalists in a competition to select Malaysia’s first astronaut were present at Friday’s signing ceremony in Moscow.

ITAR-TASS quoted the deputy head of Russia’s space agency, Yuri Nosenko, as saying the space flight would take place in September 2007.

The four budding astronauts had already started training and in August or September one would be picked for the flight, plus another as a stand-in in case of unforeseen circumstances, Nosenko said.

The two would then undertake a further year of training at Russia’s Star City space centre, he said.

  • AFP /ls