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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 August 2005, 05:23 GMT 06:23 UK
Malaysia has high hopes for moon
By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon during the first US lunar mission in July 1969
Malaysia hopes to emulate the success of the US in 1969
Malaysia has announced that it hopes to put a man on the moon by the year 2020 as part of its $25m space programme.

The Science and Technology Minister, Jamaludin Jarjis, said he would be presenting a plan to the cabinet.

Mr Jarjis says the country needs to build up a pool of trained astronauts in preparation.

But such dreams were almost immediately called into question when the first batch of would-be space explorers struggled with a simple fitness test.

Mission not-impossible

Malaysia is a nation of seemingly limitless ambition.

Having already built what were the world's tallest buildings, it must seem only a short hop from there to the moon.

But there are still serious obstacles to overcome.

On Saturday, the first group from a shortlist of more than 800 would-be astronauts set out to run 3.5km (two miles) in a leisurely 20 minutes.

All were hoping to claim Malaysia's seat on a Russian-led space mission, scheduled for 2007.

But only 12 out of 31 taking part passed the test.

Some observers wondered whether their performance might be linked to the local diet.

Earlier this year, the country announced a programme to put Malaysia's favourite foods into space.

A team is to be sent to Houston in Texas to find out how to process teh tarik (sweet tea), roti canai (flaky griddled pancakes) and nasi lemak (coconut rice) for consumption in zero gravity.

All are absolutely delicious, but rather fattening.

However, no one should write off Malaysia's chances of achieving its latest goal.

The country has transformed itself from a largely rural society to a high-tech led economy in just 20 years, and refuses to believe that any mission is impossible.

Malaysians plan Asian space food
09 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Malaysia
02 Jul 05 |  Country profiles

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