Thursday, January 03, 2008

Thoughts on the Malaysian Space Program

The government wants to provide a role model for the younger generation to help propel their mindset into the science-driven 21st century. So they chose to send a man into space thus making him an instant national ‘hero’, someone who the kids and teenagers and Malaysian’s can look up to and I mean literally, cause he is tall by Malaysian standards.

Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar was chosen to be the 1ST Malaysian angkasawan. He went to space, came back to earth safely and is now a 'national hero'. He will be coming to USM for a short visit on the 5th (January). This got me back to thinking about Malaysia’s space programme. I am actually a bit ambivalent on the subject. On one hand I think that an angkasawan would indeed provide the ultimate role model for the younger generation, especially someone who is as yummy as Dr. Sheikh.

I do believe that the Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation (MOSTI) should invest money in encouraging the younger generation to have passion for science. But I still think that even in the long run, the millions of ringgit funding the space program could be used for grants for other research and to work towards producing scientists worthy of even the Nobel Prize. A Nobel Prize recipient from Malaysia, now that would really be something, wouldn’t it?

But I have to give MOSTI credit. They sure know how to pick em’. I mean, our angkasawan sure is good looking. If you have to and I mean absolutely have to pick a role model, a national hero and someone the younger generation (especially teenage girls) can look up to, Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar would be the way to go. Any woman of any age (who is not a lesbian) can surely appreciate how fine of a male specimen he is. Admit it, we often look at Hollywood stars such as Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Wentworth Miller (I could go on & on) and wish that there were men as good looking here in Malaysia. But now look no further, we have just such a star, shinning brightly.

My mixed feeling on this subject of the space programme is not the result of ignorance on my part. I love science. I have absolute respect for it. I understand and acknowledge the importance of science and the importance of encouraging the younger generation to love science. I think there’s just absolutely so much things that you can learn from studying science. Even the Quran provides many scientific facts that you can study about. We can really understand the magnificence of god through science. But are we really ready financially for a space programme of the magnitude that the government is planning.

I’m all for the “Think Big” and “Look to the Future” mentality. But I think that the government should find a less money-draining way to do all that. I guess they just simply wanted to go for the big wow factor. That’s all fine and dandy except that it is really bloody expensive. As I said before, those hundred of millions of ringgit could be put to a lot of other uses such as large grants for other research that would directly benefit the people of Malaysia or even produce a Nobel Prize recipient. An example of such a research would be to find a way of eradicating the dengue virus. I mean scientists have found a way of eradicating the small pox virus so why can’t MOSTI use those millions to fund research such as this. I admit it doesn’t have the same wow factor as sending a man to space but it would be more useful.

I am very passionate about science and I didn’t need a role model for this. My teachers did not inspire me to study science but I had the passion anyway. I didn’t have a yummy role model to push me towards becoming a scientist when I was in school. So if I can have this passion for science at a young age without a role model surely the government can inspire the young to become scientist in other ways. But I must admit I was further inspired to pursue a career as a research scientist by my lecturers and especially my supervisor when I was doing my masters. They were passionate about science and it definitely rubbed-off on me.

For now I’ll just observe and see how far the space programme will succeed in the future. I will not yet form a strong and firm opinion on the validity of the space programme until I see a real solid return of investment from it. I just hope that there’ll be enough money left over for grants to fund my own research later when I become a full fledge research scientist.

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