Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Malaysians "kick the tires" on Soyuz TMA

Holding out for the all the accessories
: The final report on the cost-benefit analysis of the purchase of the Soyuz-TMA 11 capsule and second angkasawan programme will be tabled in cabinet next month. Science, Technology and Innovation Deputy Minister Fadillah Yusof hoped the matter would be settled next month.

"We will report to the cabinet and they will decide whether the programme will be continued and also whether the purchase is necessary," he said after a golf tournament prize-giving ceremony yesterday.

He said the Malaysian government would only be interested in the Soyuz if it could benefit the country in terms of technology transfer and Malaysians could study and learn from it.

The government would negotiate with the Russian government to ensure Malaysia received a fully-equipped capsule and the technology that came with it.

"We will only make the purchase if this condition is agreed to by the Russian government and at the right price.

"If it is an empty one, we might not buy it, but this depends on an in-depth research by both the ministry and Malaysian National Space Agency."

The Soyuz carried Malaysia's first angkasawan, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Sheikh Mustapha, to the International Space Station in October last year.

Fadillah said no decision had been made in terms of allocation as research was still under way.
"If the cost is within our capability and the benefit to the country outweighs the cost, a positive decision might be reached."

He said the second angkasawan must do more than the first, especially in terms of research, and this might prolong his stay to up to six months in outer space.

"This is why we have to have a detailed study as the cost will be astronomical. Even a space tourist has to spend RM40 million," he said, adding that the government spent about RM30 million on the first angkasawan, including research.

Fadillah said because of the mixed feedback regarding the first angkasawan programme, the government had to ensure that the cost was justifiable.

"If we cannot justify it, then we might not send a second angkasawan."

The golf tournament was held in conjunction with the 16th World Congress on IT (WCIT) at the Saujana Subang Golf. Some 80 delegates participated in the tournament, including 10 foreigners.
The prize went to Tan Ee Ern, Tan Ban Eu, Ooi Thien Te and Daniel Cheing, who amassed a score of 53.

WCIT 2008, which began yesterday and will continue until Thursday, will discuss social and economic issues such as education, healthcare, environmental sustainability, global peace and security, as well as poverty and the digital divide.

The event, the largest gathering in the congress' 30-year history, is being held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

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