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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wanna be scientist? Get your spaceflight participant ticket

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Entitled To Be Called A Scientist

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 (Bernama) - Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Sheikh Mustapha is not only an astronaut but is also entitled to be called a scientist, a Malaysian scientist said Tuesday.

"He (Dr Sheikh Muszaphar) is called an astronaut because he has travelled into outer space but we must not forget that he is also a scientist because he is trained to conduct scientific research in space," said Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Zaharudin Idrus, former science advisor to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

"Although Dr Sheikh Muszaphar is an orthopaedic surgeon, his knowledge as a scientist is beyond question," he told reporters here today.

Dr Ahmad Zaharudin, who was also science advisor to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was confident that Dr Sheikh Muszaphar would not encounter any problems in carrying out his tasks -- conducting research into the crystallisation of protein and microbes or bacteria during his stay at the International Space Station (ISS).

Dr Ahmad Zaharudin, who is now the chairman of Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation Sdn Bhd, said Dr Sheikh Muszaphar would continue to conduct research once he is back on Earth.

He said that the data to be collected by Dr Sheikh Muszaphar from the experiments aboard the ISS was very important to research work carried out at six local universities including Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM).

They (experiments) were to explore new scientific frontiers and could be used as reference by other scientists, he said, adding that Malaysians should be proud that local scientists were at par with their foreign counterparts.

However, he hoped that Malaysian scientists would communicate more with those outside Malaysia by publishing their work in foreign journals.

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar, 35, blasted off into outer space on board a Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft on Oct 10 together with American astronaut Peggy Whitson and Russian aerospace engineer Yuri Malenchenko from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

In doing so, he created history by becoming the first Malaysian to go into space.

The Soyuz TMA-11 docked with the ISS on Friday. Dr Sheikh Muszaphar is due to return to Earth on October 21.


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