Wednesday, October 21, 2009

BANTING, Oct 12 (Bernama) -- The Malaysia Astronaut Foundation, which was launched Monday, will start its operations and programmes next year, said Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili.

The setting up of the foundation was approved by the Cabinet on Aug 12 to ensure that the educational and public awareness programmes on science, technology and space science could be carried out more effectively and extensively nationwide.

Currently, the ministry (MOSTI) was in the process of appointing a number of personnel for the foundation including for the post of chief executive officer, Ongkili said after launching the foundation in conjunction with the second anniversary of the National Astronaut Programme at the National Space Centre quarters in Kg Sungai Lang, here, Monday.

He said the government had allocated an initial capital of RM5 million for three years for the foundation and would continue to provide funding on a dollar-for-dollar basis on the money collected by the foundation.

"It is hoped that the establishment of the foundation will facilitate the collection of funds from the general public and the private sector as the ministry's other agencies are bound by the government regulation that does not allow them to collect donations."

The nation's two astronauts, Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and Major Dr Faiz Khaleed, and candidates for the National Astronaut Programme would contribute to educating and creating public awareness, especially among school students, on the programme, he said.

"It is also hoped that the foundation's establishment will end allegations that the astronauts collect payments for giving talks as the foundation will pay them with the funds obtained."

On the Second National Astronaut Programme, Ongkili said Dr Faiz would be doing a Master's degree programme in Russia on a National Science Scholarship, and continue training for the second space mission involving Malaysia.

When met at the foundation's launching, Dr Faiz said he expected to begin his further studies at the Biomedical Research Institute in Russia early next year. The institute is involved in research in medicine, biology and space science.

Meanwhile, when asked about the proposal to set up a Malaysian astronauts association which was rejected by the Registrar of Societies (ROS), Ongkili said it was possibly due to its name as at present the country had only two astronauts, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar and Dr Faiz.

"To set up an association, according to the regulations, it will need at least 12 members, but we only have two astronauts."

The press recently reported on the failure of 57 candidates for the National Astronaut Programme to set up an association called the Malaysian Astronauts Association after almost nine months of trying.

Their spokesman Capt Mohammed Faiz Kamaludin was quoted as saying that the failure was due to the association's name which was rejected by the ROS.

At the same function, Ongkili also launched a coffeetable book on the National Astronaut Programme published by Utusan Publication Sdn Bhd, and the National Space Science quarters for officers handling the nation's satellite operations round the clock seven days a week.

He said the Razaksat satellite, launched recently, was now in the process of camera calibration and hoped it would be completed next month.

Malaysia Astronaut Foundation To Begin Operations Next Year