//Ethnic Indian Woman could be Malaysia's First Astronaut

Ethnic Indian Woman could be Malaysia's First Astronaut

Kuala Lumpur, Mar 15: An ethnic Indian woman was on Tuesday named among four candidates short listed to become Malaysia’s first astronaut and travel to the International Space Station next year.

S Vanajah Siva Subramaniam, 35, will travel along with three Malay men to the Russian Space Agency in Moscow soon to undergo medical and technical tests that will establish which of them will take part in the scientific expedition on board the International Space Station in 2007.

The three men are Malaysia Airlines pilot Mohammed Faiz Kamaluddin, 34; army dentist Faiz Khaleed, 26; and Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a 34-year-old hospital medical officer.

The four were chosen from more than 11,000 candidates who had submitted their applications in a process that started in 2003.

Vanajah is an engineer by profession. She was the only woman to be short-listed. All the three men are from the dominant Malay community, while Vanajah belongs to the ethnic Indian community, which comprises 8 per cent of Malaysia’s 26-million-strong population.

The two-week round in Russia will test the candidates neurological fitness and ability to adapt to a weightless environment. Two candidates will be chosen out of the three and the two will undergo 18 months of training at the Russian Space Agency.

Later only one will get to spend 10 days in a planned scientific expedition aboard the International Space Station in October 2007.

Malaysia’s space programme is likely to cost around 25 million dollars.