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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Malaise in Space

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Image taken from The Star, hosting by PhotobucketIn a few hours, the first Malaysian will be launced into space. Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, of UKM, will make the Malaysian Book of Records as the first Malaysian to break the bonds of mother Earth's orbit, riding on the Russian Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft at 9.22pm (Malaysia Time, GMT +8). Well, Walski supposes congratulations are in order.

Almost in conjunction with this historic event, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) recently produced an 18-page booklet entitled "Guidelines for Performing Islamic Rites at the International Space Station". Dr Muszaphar will be spending 8 of the 10 days ex-terra firma in the International Space Station (ISS).

But what is the real implication of this trip, and of the manual? Walski's buddy, Rafil Elyas wrote an excellent essay a week or so ago, touching on the subject of Muslms in space. As opposed to spaced out Muslims - which is a subject we'll leave for another day. This essay was first published on the Ricecooker website, and so it's quite possible some of you may have already read it...

Malaise in Space
by Rafil Elyas

In less than 10 days, a Malaysian, part of the national Angkasawan (Astronaut) Program, will be sent into space. Unlike the first Malaysian Everest Conquers or our World Beater Squash Champion, he’s relevant. I.e., he is of the correct race and religion.



For those unfamiliar with the background of Malaysian space exploration, no problem, let me summarize where we are so far.

We’ve acquired satellites for communication and entertainment but we don’t have a viable space program.

Malaysia is not a space faring nation. Malaysia has no jet propulsion lab, no aeronautical/aerospace research facilities, no fabrication yards for space hardware. We have no young von Brauns shooting projectiles into the air.

A couple of years ago, there was a local interest program on TV about a guy in Ipoh who’s been struggling for over a decade to build an ultralight aircraft. He was unsuccessful, but he was of the correct race and religion.

Never mind all that.

As Dennis Tito and other Space Flight Participants or Space Tourists have demonstrated, all you need is cash to go to space.

Approximately USD 25 Million.

The Russians, pragmatic people, are happy to call our Space Flight Participant a “Cosmonaut”, “Malaysian in the Sky with Diamonds”, or anything else we desire. As long as it's spelt correctly in the contract.

Being arrogant Yanks, NASA refuses to call our Space Flight Participant an “Astronaut”, probably because NASA astronauts are the cream of the crop, possess superior intelligence and physique. They were goal driven and obsessed individuals. In fact, one astronaut drove non-stop for hundreds of miles in a space diaper to achieve her obsession. Our leaders were furious, they quoted Wikipedia, Merriam Webster and various other dictionaries definitions of "Astronaut".

I believe in order to differentiate our Space Flight Participant from his liberal Western and godless Eastern counterparts, we should use the term “MALAy Islamic Space Explorer” or “Malaise” for this and all future Space Flight Participants selected and endorsed by our Government.

(more Malaise in Space, in the full post)

A lot of criticism had been hurled at the “Malaysian National Space Agency” with regards to the Angkasawan program. Reporters plastered the dailies with descriptions of how our Malaise would be making teh-tarik, main gasing (spinning tops) and embarking in other rather frivolous sounding activities whilst in the space station.

One of the “Malaysian National Space Agency’s” staff or contractors came out and clarified these issues. “Making teh-tarik” and “main gasing” were only analogies given out to dumb reporters. In reality, the Malaise will be conducting fluid mechanics and gyroscopic experiments in space. We haven’t been given any further details, probably because the “Malaysian National Space Agency’s” concerned that us laypeople wouldn’t understand the complex experiments they may have “planned” and “designed”.

It’s all right to be insecure and in denial about our current engineering/scientific/economic accomplishments. It’s OK to resort to the last ditch defense, and invoke the lost Heydays and Golden Ages of the post Hindu Melaka Sultanate and Ottoman Empire. This insecurity and the resulting Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt are also great tools for sales, marketing and social engineering. But that’s another kettle of fish.

Fortunately, we are able compensate for what we lack in science, technology and engineering… with our Best in Class, State of the Art Religious Practices.

Whilst I haven’t heard of any forums or committees formed to discuss space experiments (I don’t think any of our scientists have formulated any questions that need to be answered by microgravity experiments in the first place), it appears we do hell of a lot of Religious R&D, I assume paid for by my and other citizens' taxes.

MSNBC reports:
Malaysia held a forum for Islamic scholars in April 2006 to discuss problems Muslim space travelers might face, such as pinpointing the Saudi holy city of Mecca, which Muslims are expected face when they pray five times a day.

Based on the forum and other R&D activities, the Malaysian Fatwa Council and JAKIM (custodians of Malaysia’s islamic processes) have ensured that our Malaise will have all his islamic spiritual requirements covered. Fasting, prayer and all other activities have been defined in The Manual, “Islamic Practices for the International Space Station” - Malaysia’s contribution to space exploration thus far.

As we look upon this spiritual contribution to space exploration with great pride, religious detractors like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and their coven of bleeding heart, infidel, atheists, often belittle religion and lionize the virtue and elegance of Pure Science.

Don’t they realize that it’s simple and trivial to embrace and practice science? All one has to do is bone up on their algebra, calculus, special functions, probability, physical, organic, inorganic chemistry, classical and quantum physics, taxonomy, biochemistry and various other subjects. Theories and concepts come with proofs, facilitating acceptance and belief. Dawkins, Hitchens and other infidel, atheist scientists are able to freely discuss, debate, question, deconstruct and reconstruct their “beliefs”. Criticizing, questioning or blatantly insulting the creator of a theory will not result bodily harm or deadly retaliation. They are free to go to into the world..or space, make discoveries and create Golden Ages of Space Exploration without having to worry about the state of their souls, or if they have crossed the line and become a scientific “kuffar”.

On the other hand, it is not easy to be a Malaise. You first have to be able to put aside all scientific process and logic you may have been taught and make a leap of faith. After that, if you want to be seen as a “modern” ummah, you need to somehow reconcile your faith with scientific theories and discoveries. For your this, you may turn to prominent religio-scientists like Harun Yahya and Maurice Bucaille. They have found the answer to just about absolutely everything in The Book.

Now that is Science.

None of that Feynman, Sagan, van Der Waal, Gibbs, Einstein, Bohr, Curie, Newton, or Darwinian hypothesis, experiment, proof, peer reviewed trite.

Yahya and Bucaille have found the meaning Life, the Universe and Everything, condensed in The Book (not to be confused by the most excellent Book dealing with the same subject written by the late and great Douglas Adams).

A potential Malaise will earn some degrees and be exposed to western, scientific style methodology. But at the end of the day, he must go back to the Book, and find that all he had learnt in college/university/real life was right in there. Perhaps not in plain view, but requiring some painstaking translation, unraveling of metaphor and aphorism. And a touch of Faith.

Faith is important.

Our Malaise is not allowed to wonder how big or dimensionally complex his god is. Or what god’s heat capacity, average specific gravity or optimal operating temperature may be.

Our Malaise cannot doubt or question the belief framework. It was revealed recently that Mother Theresa had written about how difficult it was to sustain her faith and how she was often plagued by doubts, yet overcame them. If she were a Malaise, she wouldn’t have such doubts in the first place.

(Well, maybe our Malaise can have doubts and wonder, but he can’t go wonderings these things aloud – lest he be sent to Faith Rehab and miss a launch.)

Our Malaise must not try and reconcile the fact that his god is above all base human emotions, loving, compassionate yet gets periodically angry and vengeful.

Such doubts can never enter the Malaise’s thoughts.

Our Malaise has Faith. And it is stamped on his National Registration Department Identification Card.

It is not enough just to have Faith. Our Malaise must also make sure the mechanics of expressing the Faith are executed correctly.

That's why he needs The Manual.

While the infidel crewmates conduct experiments, perform installations and maintenance on the ISS and run through the flight manual check list…he will be consulting his own manual to determine which direction he needs to face for prayer (probably, down-ish). He knows this is equally as important as making sure the zero-g experiments are completed and the correct reentry trajectory has been calculated. If the heat shields fail upon reentry and they go down in a blazing fireball, he will wake up to shade, sweet water and everything his heart desires.

Our Malaise takes his orders from god, not Houston,

The “Malaysian National Space Agency”, MOSTI, the Fatwa Council, JAKIM and leaders (of the correct race and religion) have their priorities right. It is a waste of time trying to do Real Science at this historic moment. The infidels seem to have all the tech, science and engineering figured out. We can simply buy it from them, we got barrels and barrels of oil and billions of standard cubic feet of gas to sell. Perhaps this is why relevant Malaysians’ (of the correct race, religion) contribution to any field of science, technology or engineering is essentially nil.

It is far better to concentrate our resources on developing and QA'ing the necessary processes and mechanisms of worship.

So we may please god correctly and accurately, as we send our Malaise into space.

And while waiting for the lift-off, which should be in about T-minus 2 hours and then some, what better way to celebrate this soon-to-be historical moment with some historical piece of music... a Bowie classic, no less.

"... take your kurma pills, and put your kopiah on..."

Walski's guest author note: Rafil Elyas is an Earth-bound scientist who specializes in dynamic plant processes, which he models with much passion and zeal. While waiting for his dynamic models to execute, Rafil fronts 360 Degree Head Rotation, runs Disarseter Records, and in his spare time, writes stuff like what you just read above. He's also the closest thing to a rocket scientist that Walski knows personally...