Happy Angkasawan Day!

TODAY MARKS THE 6th anniversary of Malaysia’s first astronaut Datuk Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor in space.

I first wrote about Angkasawan Day!(link) a year ago.

This date has not been officially declared as “Angkasawan Day” but in view of its historical significance to our nation, it just might one day in the near future 🙂 (just as Russia has Cosmonautics Day on 12 April to commemorate Yuri Gagarin’s first ever manned flight to space in 1961.)

Dr. Sheikh appeared on the front page of The Moscow Times (22 October 2007) after his successful return to Earth on 21 October 2007, a copy which he personally autographed when he dropped by our home on 9 November 2007.

Dr. Sheikh appeared on the front page of The Moscow Times (22 October 2007) after his successful return to Earth on 21 October 2007, a copy which he personally autographed when he dropped by our home on 9 November 2007.

Dr. Sheikh at the Inauguration Ceremony of the Cosmonauts at Star City, Moscow on 8 November 2007; a huge picture of Yuri Gagarin hangs as the backdrop.

Dr. Sheikh at the Inauguration Ceremony of the Cosmonauts at Star City, Moscow on 8 November 2007; a huge picture of Yuri Gagarin hangs as the backdrop.

Advertisements

30th Anniversary of Moon Landing, 1999

BACK ON 20th July 1999, when the Newseum celebrated the 30th anniversary of man’s historic moon landing, Apollo 11 crew members Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins were there at Arlington’s interactive museum of news to re-tell their great moment in history; so was I.

moon_1American astronaut Neil Armstrong made history being the first man to walk on the moon surface, followed by Buzz Aldrin. Their feat was well documented in history books including our Sejarah textbooks back in my old school days. Who knew I would one day find myself under the same roof with the trio!

Back in 1999 I was living in Arlington, Virginia which was a mere 15 minutes walk to the Newseum (then located on 1101 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Va, but has since re-located to Pennsylvania  Avenue, Washington DC).

That Tuesday, the Newseum extended its opening hours to mark the 30th anniversary and held a “Moon Mania” Family Day where “families can participate in a full day of moon and space-themed programming, hands-on activities and showings of the actual TV coverage of the moon landing” (source: Newseum June-July Exhibits/Programs pamphlet).

Although I did not get to see the trio in person, I joined hundreds in the packed Newseum and watched their live interview in the domed theatre unfold on the giant 126-foot-long Video News Wall, fully aware that I was under the same roof with the history makers.

I suppose I helped create history that day being one of the Newseum visitors which hit a record 5,237 in a single day (statistics sourced online).

So, while I will NEVER get to walk on the moon surface, I CAN claim that I walked on the same grounds as the men who walked on the moon 🙂

(L) Another pamphlet collected from the Newseum on “Dateline Moon: The Media and the Space Race”; (R) Me with the giant Video News Wall in the background, superimposed onto the pamphlet 🙂

(Top) A display of front pages of major newspapers on the 1969 historic flight; (Bottom, R) At the Newseum Store that sold one-of-a-kind news-related merchandise, met NBC journalist Mil Arcega who happened to be covering the event that day.

The 21st July 1969 edition of The Washington Post headlined, “The Eagle Has Landed – Two Men Walk on the Moon”. It quoted President Nixon as telling the astronauts by radiophone from the White House that, “For every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives. For this priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this earth are truly one.”

For the rest of the world, the late Armstrong’s legendary quote remains the most unforgettable: “One small step for man, a giant leap for mankind”.

A metal plate of the Washington Post front page dated 21 July 1969 which hubby received as a souvenir during his visit to the WP printing plant; now hanging on the wall of our home.

Also hanging on the wall is the Moscow Times front page dated 22 October 2007 autographed by Malaysian angkasawan Datuk Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor.

Also hanging on the wall is the Moscow Times front page dated 22 October 2007 autographed by Malaysian angkasawan Datuk Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor.

Links to my other encounters with astronauts:

1) Angkasawan Day! (2007)

2) Meeting the First Muslim Astronaut (1993)

Meeting the First Muslim Astronaut

I HAD THE opportunity to meet and interview the first Muslim astronaut – Prince Sultan Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud – twenty years ago in 1993.

It was the first visit to Malaysia for Prince Sultan who in 1985 became the first Arab, the first Muslim and the first royalty in space. A nephew of then King Fahd of Saudi Arabia (1982-2005), Prince Sultan was one of the seven crew members aboard American space shuttle Discovery to launch three communication satellites, including one for the Arab Satellite Communications organisation. He also carried out a series of in-cabin experiments designed by Saudi scientists.

Prince Sultan after the interview with members of the media (which included Lokman Hamidi of TV3 and Juhaidi Yean Abdullah of NST) on 10th May 1993 in Shangri-La Hotel, KL.

Prince Sultan after the interview with members of the media (which included Lokman Hamidi of TV3 and Juhaidi Yean Abdullah of NST) on 10th May 1993 in Shangri-La Hotel, KL.

The following article was published on this date in 1993.

_______________________________________________________________________

Princely accomplishment (The Star, Focus, Thursday May 20, 1993)

Kuala Lumpur: Visiting Malaysia was as much an experience to be treasured as travelling to space for Prince Sultan Salman bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi  Arabia. 

The 37-year old nephew of King Fahd made history by being the first Arab and Muslim astronaut when he blasted off with six other US and French crewmen in the American space shuttle Discovery on June 17, 1985. 

He circled the earth 111 times during the 4.67 million km journey at an approximate altitude of 365 km.  

“It was one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life,” he had said upon landing a week later.  

However during his recent three-day visit to Malaysia, he had another experience just as strange and memorable to him – his first walk in a jungle escorted by his host, Education Minister Datuk Amar Dr Sulaiman Daud.  

For the prince, a pre-environmentalist, the visit was an eye opener. He had heard adverse reports concerning the Malaysian Government’s attitude towards preserving the rainforests. He came out convinced and impressed with the Government’s crusade in preserving the rainforests. 

A visit to the Penan settlements further convinced him of the Government’s sincere efforts in providing medical and educational facilities – the basic needs of life – to the indigenous people. 

“My interest in the rainforest issue is purely the interest of a human being, not for fanatical or political reasons,” he said. 

He said he had also heard the speeches by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Rio Summit. Wanting to know the issue first hand without relying on reports which “are not all the time accurate”, he even took a two-hour walk in the jungles, enjoying every minute of it. 

“Coming from the desert, this experience was very unusual and educational for me.” 

Being a qualified pilot for commercial and fighter planes, Prince Sultan flew here with his three-member delegation comprising Assistant Deputy Minister of Interior Prince Khalid Fahd al-Suderi, the vice-president of Aramco Company for Computer Department Dr Ibrahim al-Mushari and director of the Prince’s office Abdullah M. al-Sheikh. 

On his first visit to the country, Prince Sultan said there was much to learn from Malaysia. 

“We have much in common. Besides both countries enjoying good relations, we share the same perspectives and goals in terms of human development. 

“The country has made great strides in combining the development of the nation and preservation of the nature while keeping up with the culture and beliefs,” Prince Sultan said. 

A person with vast interests including aviation, sports, architecture and ecology, Prince Sultan said he got involved in the space programme by chance, just as many of the other astronauts he spoke to did. 

The Mass Communication graduate from Denver   University, United States was selected because he was a qualified pilot, spoke fluent English and was in good health. 

Recalling his six months of intensive training compared to the normal one-year stint, he said it was full of hard work keeping up with the rest of the crew. 

“Being a prince didn’t make me any different, so you can’t be any less qualified or less prepared than the others.” 

“It was made more difficult the fact that training was done during the fasting month and I had wanted to carry out the religious practices of Islam even though I was considered a musaffir,” he said. While in space, he prayed regularly and read the Quran. After the seven days in space, he was hooked. 

Speaking enthusiastically, he said, “I couldn’t believe how small the world is… much smaller than you think. So when you do some damage to it, the damage is bigger and greater than you think.” 

He is currently involved in many space projects. The prince’s space flight had been described as being symbolic to a scientific re-awakening for the Arabs who once were pioneers of scientific research and intellectual advancement. 

“The most important result of the whole trip is being able to let our people see the space experienced by one of our own people,” he stressed. 

For that reason, he had made copies of the tape of the space flight and has given more than 300 lectures worldwide on space travel and technology. 

Born and raised in his native Riyadh, he is married to the daughter of the Saudi Foreign Minister and has a four-year old son. His father is Riyadh’s Governor.

A pilot by profession, he is a Lt. Col with the Royal Saudi Air Force.

“It is an honour to be a prince. However it is also a duty which makes us more responsible and work harder to provide services to help the others,” Prince Sultan said.

Left: My article in The Star, 20th May 1993, page 19; Right: HRH Prince Sultan Salam bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia in the “Aramco World Magazine: Arabs and the Stars”, which he personally autographed. The caption below the picture quoted him: “It was one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life”.

Left: My article in The Star, 20th May 1993, page 19; Right: HRH Prince Sultan Salman bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia in the “Aramco World Magazine: Arabs and the Stars”, which he personally autographed. The caption below the picture quoted him: “It was one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life”.

Angkasawan Day!

AngkasawanFIVE YEARS AGO on this day (10 October 2007), Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor became the first Malaysian to go to space. He travelled in the Russian Soyuz-FG rocket (with crewmates American astronaut Peggy Whitson and Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko) that blasted off from the launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan at 5:22pm Moscow time (9:22pm Malaysian time) heading to the International Space Station.

That Wednesday afternoon, I was in our Moscow home with my daughter and our German neighbour Kathrin and her 3-year old daughter Carolin; all eyes on the TV, watching the launch and praying that all went well.

I continued watching all night long, with various news channels repeating the news throughout the hours. After all, this was not a daily occurrence!

News

The Soyuz launch received wide coverage from numerous television channels.

It was indeed a proud day for all Malaysians. Perhaps this date will be officially called Angkasawan Day, just as Russia has Cosmonautics Day on 12 April to commemorate Yuri Gagarin’s first ever manned flight to space in 1961.

Some memorable moments with Angkasawan Dr. Sheikh and Dr. Faiz Khaleed…

Our first meeting with the duo at the Hari Raya do at the Malaysian Embassy in Moscow      on 23 October 2006.

Our first meeting with the duo at the Hari Raya do at the Malaysian Embassy in Moscow on 23 October 2006.

They were both guests at our Chinese New Year open house on 18 Feb 2007.

We met them again on several other occasions after that (27 Oct 2007; 11 Nov 2007).

We met them again on several other occasions after that (27 Oct 2007; 11 Nov 2007).

Dr Sheikh was in space for 10 days and returned to Earth on 21 October 2007, and home a hero.  He returned to Moscow in November to attend the Inauguration Ceremony of the Cosmonauts at  Star City on 8 Nov 2007.

Dr Sheikh was in space for 10 days and returned to Earth on 21 October 2007, and home a hero. He returned to Moscow in November to attend the Inauguration Ceremony of the Cosmonauts at Star City on 8 Nov 2007.

The following night, Dr. Sheikh turned up at our home for a chat. The very down-to-earth angkasawan autographed some photos for us.

The following night, Dr. Sheikh turned up at our home for a chat. The very down-to-earth angkasawan autographed some photos for us.

A real life historic figure right in our living room, signing a copy of The Moscow Times newspaper dated 22 October 2007 that front-paged his successful return from the ISS.

A real life historic figure right in our living room, signing a copy of The Moscow Times newspaper dated 22 October 2007 that front-paged his successful return from the ISS.

Meeting Dr Sheikh again at his home during Raya on 31 Aug 2011. Also met his lovely wife Datin Dr Halina Mohd Yunos and their newborn baby Sophea Isabella who shares the same birth date as our older daughter.

Meeting Dr Sheikh again at his home during Raya on 31 Aug 2011. Also met his lovely wife Datin Dr Halina Mohd Yunos and their newborn baby Sophea Isabella who shares the same birth date as our older daughter.

Happy Angkasawan Day!

My previous encounters with astronauts:

1. Meeting the First Muslim Astronaut (1993)

2. 30th Anniversary of Moon Landing, 1999