Jan 24, 2006

Paskal Trained Astronaut

LUMUT, 23 Jan (Bernama) -- The Malaysian astronaut candidates who are not selected after the final screening in April will be made "family members" of the National Space Agency (Angkasa), said Science, Technology and Innovations Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis.

"We will ask them to form an alumni so that they can continue to be involved in Angkasa activities," he said.

"They will be invited to become volunteers in the first Malaysian-made satellite (Razaksat) launching programme this year," he said after witnessing the subsequent trial session for astronaut candidates at the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) Base, here Monday.

Eighteen candidates started the Aeromedical II and Survival trial session beginning today until Thursday involving survival tests in water and on land.

He said that for this session, only 18 candidates were selected because the other nine failed the aerophysiology test and psychology test carried out from Jan 16 to 21 in Kuala Lumpur.

Jamaludin said that after the four-day trial session which would also be conducted by the RMN Commandos (Paskal), 10 more candidates would be dropped.

The remaining eight candidates would undergo another trial session in Kuala Lumpur before four of the eight candidates were chosen for a month-long training in Russia, and their selection would be announced by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would announce the two candidates to pass the session in Russia in April and they would be sent back to Russia for training for 18 months before one of them was selected to be Malaysia's first astronaut scheduled to fly to outer space in October 2007.

"We are confident that the four candidates to be chosen for training in Russia would meet the requirement. I'm impressed with the interest and ability shown by those undergoing the trial sessions. The candidates and those conducting the trials are all very professional," Jamaludin said.

A total of 199 candidates took part in the first session in October last year before 57 were chosen to undergo the first Aeromedical trial session where 27 passed the test.

Meanwhile, S. Vanajah, 34, became the only woman left in the group of 18 candidates who would continue the challenge after Devina David failed in the selection.


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Jan 2, 2006

Commandant admits clashes with pirates in Sabah waters

STRAITS OF MELAKA Feb 27 - The commandant of the Marine Special Forces (Paskal) has admitted of clashes between his commando unit and the pirates in waters off East Sabah.

"Our capability is not only seen formidable in training but has been tested as well. I can't revealed the details," said Paskal Special Operations Officer, Lt. Commander Che Adnan Mat Isa.

He was asked by reporters onboard the KD Mahawangsa during the "Naga Emas" 41/2002 exercise if Paskal had been an effective force in fighting the pirates since there was not much publicity on the unit since its formation in 1981.

Che Adnan said it was no surprise to him since the waters off East Sabah were highly dangerous, infested with pirates as well as serving as a route of Philippine rebels.

But, he refused to say if the marine commandos had clashes with the rebels. He said the pirates were also armed with sophisticated weapons and more organised compared to in the past. "In the past, we heard only of traditional pirates but with the current economic slowdown, a new bred of pirates have emerged," he said.

He said the new bred of pirates could change the identity of a ship in no time, suggesting that they had the logistics support and a professional organisation. Che Adnan however refused to comment on whether these pirates could be foreign military personnel who resorted to piracy to buffer the effects of the recession.

He also said the government was expanding the special forces but it was no easy task. "We need men. If 60 apply, only two will make the cut," he said. He said that with the information explosion, the authorities were now more liberal in talking about Paskal which at one time was the country's secret. Some 40 Paskal members are involved in the exercise which include the use of latest laser-guided assault rifles.

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