KUANTAN: The country’s space programme should focus on education and ensure sound basic knowledge in mathematics and science subjects at the earliest age possible, Angkasawan Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor said.
He added that there was more to the space programme than just sending people into space.
“It is about how to get the technology, acquiring the knowledge and fuelling the interest and imagination of the young.
“It is about moulding a strong grassroots who have a good grasp of mathematics and science,” he said after delivering a talk to students at Shahputra College here recently.
Dr Sheikh Muszaphar agreed that the country should postpone any plans to send another Malaysian to space and, instead, concentrate on having a more objective plan that would define the nation’s direction to develop its space programme.
He urged the Government, especially the Education and Science, Technology and Innovation ministries, to play a bigger role including creating job opportunities for those with a background in aeronautical engineering.
“There are about 450 aeronautical engineers in the country but only 10% are working as aeronautical engineers. The rest are working in other lines,” he said.
Dr Sheikh Muszaphar cited the Korean government as an example, saying that the country had sent an astronaut much later than Malaysia but already had a five-plan space programme.
“The pace is going very slowly for Malaysia. I get frustrated at times,” he said.
However, the 35-year-old orthopaedic surgeon would not be alone in his crusade to get the nation interested in space, science and mathematics as he planned to form an association with 59 other astronaut candidates who had vied to become the first Malaysian to be sent to space.
Dr Sheikh Muszaphar said it would be called the Angkasawan Association of Malaysia and members would chip in to deliver talks and conduct activities that would motivate youngsters.
On the results of experiments carried out in space, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor said the findings were expected to be released early next month at a gathering that would attended by local and international scientists.
He described the findings as promising.
Earlier in his talks, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar said that if the Government wanted to send another astronaut to space, it should be something more challenging than what he had done.
“They could send a woman astronaut, do a space walk or stay for a longer duration,” he said.
When fielding questions from the audience, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar said there were two things he missed most when he was in space – a shower and the smell of nature.
The good-looking angkasawan added that he still had two dreams to fulfil – to be a pilot by 2013 and to work with children in Africa.
By Roslina Mohamad from The Star On-line Thursday, 28th August 2008