Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Angkasawan of Malaysia: Part II

In 2003, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov came to Malaysia to do promotion on his fighter jets. Ivanov is a very good business man because he knew his customer very well. And in May 19, 2003, Najib Razak announced that we have agreed to purchase 18 Indian-made Sukhoi-30MKM fighter jets from Russia.

Later, it was announced that the price of the 18 jets is $900 millions and there is also an offset agreement in which Russia will offer Malaysia one seat in the Russian spacecraft.

Did Ivanov and Najib discussed in detail about the offset agreement in 2003? We are not very sure. But I guess Ivanov must have hinted Najib on the possibility of realizing Malaysian dreams of creating his own Angkasawan, free of charge.

Initially, we were told by the Russians that our boy will be trained in Star City, Moscow in 2004 and be sent to space by 2005. But the American businessman, Gregory Hammond Olsen paid $20 millions and he got the place in the Soyuz TMA-7 mission, launched in October 1, 2005.

Later, American-Iranian businesswoman, Anousheh Ansari (انوشه انصاری) paid $20 millions and she got the space ticket in the Soyuz TMA-9 expedition, lauched in September 18, 2006. Then another famous American businessman named Charles Simonyi cut the queue again, when he was launched to space by the Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft in April 7, 2007.

We cannot complain much about all this queue-cutting stuffs because our space ticket is free-of-charge.

Fortunately, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Mustapha Shukor, our first Angkasawan, finally had his seat confirmed and he is scheduled to be launched to space in October 10, 2007, together with other two crew members in the Soyuz TMA-11 expedition.

Unexpectedly, all these delays are good for Malaysia because we can, like TBS Japan, use this opportunity to do self-promotion (for Visit Malaysia 2007) and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Merdeka.

Dreams are possible, if and only if you have money.

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