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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 September 2005, 06:49 GMT 07:49 UK
Malaysians to help pick astronaut
By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

The Soyuz TM32 spacecraft blasts off from the launch pad at the cosmodrome Baikonur in Kazakstan, Saturday, Apr. 28, 2001
Malaysia's choice will blast off with a Russian team in 2007
Malaysia's science minister plans to make the country's space programme a truly interactive experience.

Members of the public will be able to choose the country's first astronaut from a shortlist and vote by text message, said Jamaluddin Jarjis.

Malaysia is due to take part in a Russian-led mission in 2007.

Having seen the enthusiasm with which people vote in TV talent competitions, the government is to apply the principle to the space programme.

Once its 11,000 would-be astronauts have been whittled down to a handful, their details and updates on their progress will be posted on the internet.

Then, the public will be able to make their choice by telephone text message and Malaysia's space bosses will factor the votes into their final decision.

If the contest proves popular and the government charges for the votes, it may even be able to cover the cost of its space programme.

The first Malaysian is due to reach for the stars on a Russian-led mission in 2007.

The national space agency has already announced plans for a research programme to send the country's favourite foods into orbit and the selection process to find the Malaysian who will taste them in zero gravity is already well advanced.

So far, only 200 short listed candidates have managed to run 3.5km (2.2 miles) in under 20 minutes and pass a medical.

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