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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Malaysia mulls buying historic Russian spacecraft to boost youths' interest in science

AP (6/11/2007): Malaysia is thinking of buying the Russian craft that carried the first Malaysian into space and putting it on exhibit to stimulate scientific interest among the country's youths, an official said Monday.

Science Minister Jamaludin Jarjis said Russia's space agency offered to sell the Soyuz TMA-11 craft to Malaysia and that negotiations were under way. There was no mention of any possible price.

Malaysia's Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor lifted off on Oct. 10 in the Soyuz craft as part of a mission to the international space station, where the astronaut spent 11 days conducting scientific experiments with cancer cells, proteins and microbes that cause tropical diseases.

"We are very keen to acquire the spacecraft and bring it back to Malaysia. It will be the icon to create awareness, and to stimulate interest in science and technology among some five million kids in school," he said, adding that the craft could be displayed at Malaysia's space center. "This investment is for Malaysia's future, to create a knowledge-based society."

Malaysia, one of Southeast Asia's most prosperous nations, aims to become a developed country by 2020.

Jamaludin said he would seek public opinion on the purchase before asking for the government's approval.

Sheikh Muszaphar, who has become a national hero, is scheduled to soon start a nationwide tour to share his experience in space.


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