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First Malaysian astronaut to arrive in Russia in late-Sept.

KUALA LUMPUR, September 13 (RIA Novosti) - A doctor chosen to become Malaysia's first astronaut and his backup will arrive in Russia on September 27 to start training, the Malaysian Space Agency said Wednesday.

Russia will send the astronaut on board a Soyuz carrier rocket to the International Space Station as part of a $900-million contract signed in 2003 to supply the Asian country with 18 Russian multipurpose Su-30MKM air superiority fighters.

Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Al Masrie, a 34 year-old orthopedic doctor and a trainee lecturer in medicine in the National University of Malaysia, and his backup, army dentist Faiz bin Khaleed, were picked from a short-list of three men and a woman who had undergone tests in Russia to select the best contender.

The doctors will undergo a year-long course at the Space Training Center in the Moscow Region. Malaysian and Russian experts will decide on what work the astronaut will pursue in orbit. The program is expected to include research into the functioning of the cardio-vascular system in space, experiments in neurophysiology, cellular and microbiology and survey of Malaysian seeds planted in orbit.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced the names of the astronauts Monday after the agency received over 11,000 applications for the ISS-16 mission flight, scheduled for October 2007.

If Muszaphar Shukor completes his training, he will join a growing list of foreigners that Russia has sent into space. Anousheh Ansari, a U.S. national of Iranian descent, is expected to be launched September 18 on board Soyuz TMA-9 as part of the 14th Russian-American mission to the ISS.

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