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Friday, October 12, 2007

Spaced Out...

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Image taken from The Star, hosting by PhotobucketWell, boys and girls, Malaysia finally sends a citizen into space. On October 10th, 2007. Let's face it - Malaysia is not a space-faring nation, and will not be for sometime to come. Sending an astronaut into space may be considered by some as a first step, but the proof of that pudding comes with what happens after that first step... But an analysis of the what-after is not the focus of this post.

Apparently, October 10th holds a lot of significance. Besides the obvious, of course, being the day the first Malaysian blasted off into space. Walski managed to catch the tail-end of the live telecast, having left the office later than expected.

One observation that Walski made about the telecast - we have a long way to go in terms of having competent commentators when it comes to technology. Like at one point... "oh, look... the pen is floating!" Yes, doofus... that's what pens do in zero gravity. We sometimes seem to have the knack of pointing out the blatantly obvious.

Image taken from The Star, hosting by PhotobucketAnd one thing that Pak Lah asked... after being told by former astronaut Captain Robert “Hoot” Gibson that the astronauts would be able to move around - "Will they have to stay that way (as in strapped into their seats) throughout the trip?" Hmmm... he did seem awake, though.

But the goofiest person on TV last night must have been Datuk Seri Dr. Jamaluddin Jarjis, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation. The man actually has a PhD in Electrical Engineering - which goes to show what politics can do to the human mind... 'cause boy, did he ever look goofy and totally out of place...

Malaysia now proudly joins the ranks of 38 nations that have had their citizens launched into space. Despite any brickbats anyone may have (probably Walski included), it is an achievement that every Malaysian should be proud of. Granted, most of these 38 are not exactly big names in space-faring (like Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan).

But anyways, back to October 10th... it was truly an auspicious day for a space launch, even if not many people realized it.

Did you know....

(1) The Outer Space Treaty was entered into force
on October 10th, 1967? The treaty was signed earlier that year on January 27th, and forms the basis for international space law. Essentially, the treaty states that no one nation can lay claim to any part of space, the Moon, or any of the planets (Article II). Well, that kind of puts a damper on the sloganeering TV promo ".. Malaysia bakal menguasai angkasa lepas.." (Malaysia will one day control space.. loosely translated) that they've been broadcasting. Malaysia is a signatory, but has not ratified the treaty (like we've not ratified a lot of other treaties).

Any research, according to the treaty, should be for peaceful purposes (Article IV). While our own astronaut will be doing research (several, according to news reports), what's really questionable is the extent of the research, since our Angkasawan will only be on the ISS for 8 days. Sounds more like a PR exercise, if you were to ask Walski, averting claims that he's merely a "space tourist".

But be that as it may, it's rather a cool coincidence that the launch date, October 10th, is when the Outer Space Treaty came into force 40 years earlier.
(more October 10th auspiciousness, in the full post)

(2) The birthday of a good many stars
just so happens to have fallen on October 10th. Like the late Anita Mui (who would've turned 44), has-been rockstar David Lee Roth, Ultravox's Midge Ure, legendary B-movie filmmaker Ed Wood, and jazz legend Thelonius Monk (there are quite a few others, by the way). So, it's kind of fitting that Malaysia started it's quest for space-faring on this date - first the orbit, then the stars... provided, of course, that there's going to be more to the Angkasawan program than PR, insignificant "experiments", and merely piggy-backing on someone else's rides, rather than developing our own propulsion technologies, like Japan and China.

On another musical note, October 10th, 1969 is also the date King Crimson's debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King was released. Perhaps the only band that produced some pretty spaced out music, without believing in actually being spaced out.

And speaking of being spaced out...

(3) Space-out of Muslims
also coincidentally happened on the same date, October 10th, 680. Okay, we're not talking about the mental kind of space-out, the kind which goes well with King Crimson, but the physical kind. What Walski is on about here is the Battle of Karbala - the historical event that led to Muslims being split into Sunni and Shi'ite factions. Muslims, of course, know the date as 10th of Muharram - or Aashurah - the killing of Husayn bin Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

Since such a big hoo-ha has been made about the first Malaysian in space being of the correct race and religion, this coincidence is too big for Walski to ignore. Wonder if anyone else connected these dots... that the day Muslims spaced out, is also the day that Malaysia spaced out...

~ o o o o o o o ~

So, October 10th goes into the record books - at least the Malaysian Book of Records, to be sure. As providence would have it, this year's October 10th follows a few other historical October 10th's as far as space travel is concerned.

Destiny, or coincidence? Who knows, really... perhaps down the road, more cosmic occurences may happen on the same date. Or perhaps not. And where does Malaysia go from this space ride, in as far as being a space-faring nation goes?

Again, who knows... maybe on another October 10th in the future... Only time, and Malaysia's future plans for Sukhoi purchases, will tell.