Friday, February 1, 2008

Coretan Sheikh Muszaphar

Dear beloved Malaysians,

It has been close to two months since my journey to space but it still seems like yesterday. A cosmonaut friend told me that once you are in space, you certainly want to go back. He was truly right! I itch to go back for a 6-month duration. It was definitely the best 12 days of my life; I am yearning to start my roadshow meeting to all the schools and universities throughout Malaysia which probably would start in January 2008. I have lived a dream of all Malaysians and raring to share my experiences with all of you.

I will continue with my previous write-up on things I did in space. Besides the experiments that I did with the Malaysian scientists (cancer cells, bacteria and protein crystallization), there were also other experiments with the ESA (vestibular effect on microgravity, backache and muscle propioception) and JAXA (radiation effect on my body).

The first 9 days I was truly busy conducting these experiments. I have been trained many times on ground conducting these experiments, hence was well prepared conducting them onboard the ISS. With my medical background, it definitely helped conducting them with ease.

Most importantly is to introduce our Malaysian culture to the rest of the world. Bringing our Malaysian food was one way of doing them. The crew loved the food especially our banana rolls and ginger jelly but found the satay and rendang tok too spicy. Your taste buds tend to change in space. There are some food that I loved on Earth but “find them no-way-I-am-going-to-eat-those-food” onboard the ISS. I loved the mash potatoes provided by the Russians and put them on my daily menu but never ate them when I was in space. I find our Malaysian food very delicious except for the chicken biryani and tempe which were not to my liking. The Italians brought pizza, the French brought cheese, the Japanese brought Ramen and the Koreans who are going next would be bringing their National food Kimchi.

Then there was the Malaysian Batik which was specially designed for my trip to space. It was printed with planets, stars and galaxies which I find unique.The crew loved my batik and even made some orders. I went to the International Batik in KLCC recently displaying the batik to the public. It would be kept in the National Gallery in the future. My proud moment was bringing the Jalur Gemilang and reading the Rukun Negara in space. I am just proud to be Malaysian and we should not take them for granted. Being far away training in Russia made me realize how fortunate we are to live in a multi racial and peaceful country

During our freetime before going to sleep, we would play some Russian songs for a bit of relaxation. I do not want to feel left out so I played some Malaysian songs through the speaker onboard the ISS. There were Seribu Bintang by Alleycats, Malam Bulan Di Pagar Bintang by the late P Ramlee and Balik Kampung by Sudirman. In space religion and nationality does not matter. We work as a team. It feels like one big happy family. We helped each other out. What matters is our contribution to make the world a better place through our scientific experiments.

I get to spend my time observing earth on my last day after completing all my experiments. Seeing earth was just magical and spectacular. I did get to see Penang Island and it was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. I could feel the Malaysian warmth 400km above and wished that one of you Malaysians could just look up and wave up to me. Being close to the equator makes it difficult to view Malaysia as it tends to be very cloudy there. Somehow it’s always night time when I passed by. I was always ready with my powerful camera lens hoping to take pictures of our twin tower KLCC but it was not meant to be.

On my next write-up, I would be talking about my daily life in space like having a shower, shaving, exercise and the most frequent question on how do I go to the toilet , etc. and my plans for the future. I was touched by the impact of the space programme on our country mainly the schoolchildren and it was definitely worth sending a Malaysian to space. Changing the mindset of the younger generation to be a better and developed nation is what matters most and I have seen the effects it has on kids. No matter what some minority of Malaysians say, it was definitely worth it!

“Towards a stronger and intellectual nation”


Dr Sheikh

Angkasawan Malaysia

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