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Malaysia's first astronaut goes into space, October 10, Malaysia

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Mustapha, Malaysia's first angkasawan (astronaut), lifted off on board a Russian Soyuz 15-S rocket with American astronaut Peggy Whitson, the ISS7S new commander, and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, at 9.21 pm Malaysia time on October 10.

He is the first Muslim to go into the space during the fasting month of Ramadan and he will observe the dawn-to-dusk fasting rules during Ramadan, before Aidilfitri (the Malay term for the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Fitr).

He will spend eight days on the ISS and perform a number of life science experiments. He will also measure space radiation using a Passive Dosimeter for Life science Experiments in Space (PADLES) developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), under the cooperative agreement between JAXA and the Malaysia National Space Agency.

Comment from Dr Mazlan Othman, the Director General of National Space Agency:

The launch of Malaysia's first astronaut (or angkasawan, which means "astronaut" in Malay) has galvanized the nation's interest in space and the importance of space to humanity. All Malaysians are now confident that if they have the appropriate strategies and plans, they can achieve their dreams, even for reaching out to the stars.

The science experiments that the angkasawan is conducting are very important as they provide a benchmark by which to measure the immediate impact of the program and also for other nations to evaluate Malaysia's seriousness about embarking on a manned space program. The joint research projects carried out with the European Space Agency and the Japanese Space Exploration Agency also guarantee that Malaysian scientists will be able to continue to carry out microgravity research in the long-term with these partners, even though another angkasawan may not go into space in the next one or two years.

The date of the launch is also significant as it symbolizes Malaysia's "leap" into the future after 50 years of independence.

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