The mainstream media has been referring to our angkasawan, Sheikh Muzhaphar Shukor, as an Astronaut. Even alternative news portal Malaysiakini bought the bull (although they cheekily added the "part time model" reference to their headline). Refer to the earlier post: Our Malaysian Astrocannot for details.
Then bloggers found out that NASA calls him a Space Flight Participant. That apparently means space tourist. To an average joe like me, that means baggage. The Space Flight Participant moniker opened the floodgates of public opinion against the "Nasional Space Program". Malaysians were outraged that we had spent USD30 million to send a man on what is essentially, a joyride to space. And we sounded our displeasure... loudly.
Obviously, our lamentations fell upon the ear of Science, Techology and Innovations Minister Encik Jamaludin Jarjis, prompting him to blurt out:
Malaysia's first "angkasawan" (space traveller) will be recognised as a cosmonaut by the Russian space authorities. He said that an official recognition ceremony for the angkasawan as a cosmonaut would be held in Moscow on Nov 11 following his return from space on Oct 21.Really, Minister? Is that really the end of the story? Have you told the Russians that?
"Some countries might question this, but to me, it is not important. What matters is that the candidate was selected and trained by Russia and the country recognises him as a true cosmonaut."
"The Russians themselves had told our man (angkasawan) that he is a cosmonaut, and that's the end of the story." - Bernama
I did a quick check at the Russian Federal Space Agency or ROSCOSMOS' website. It's the Russian equivalent of the US' NASA. Turns out that they do have a profile on our angkasawan.
But it's in Russian. So what does it say? What is the ROSCOSMOS calling him? A quick stint at Google Translator reveals that he is called... wait for it... "Participant space flight".
So... who's bullshitting who, Mr Minister?
He still sounds like jettisonable flotsam to me.
>>>>>Update 4 Oct 2007 4:30pm:>>>>>
I found the English pages on the ROSCOSMOS website. Hmmmph... it just got worse. The Russkis are calling him simply 'Flight Participant'. They can't be bothered so much so that they even left out the word 'Space'.
And guess what? Faiz, our Angkasawan #2 is called... 'Flight Participant Backup'. WTF?... Luggage also need backup?
Also read The Star for an account of the Russian Ambassador to Malaysia trying to back up our Minister by contradicting ROSCOSMOS.