Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Permit: check! Ticket: check! Winter jackets: check! Facebook status is up!
She’s all packed, and the count down begins. In less than 24 hours, Vanajah Siva will board a plane for Sweden where she will spend the next 5 years pursuing her Ph.D at the Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg.
Vanajah is the happiest woman on the planet today... her only wish is to be surrounded by close family and friends who are bidding her farewell as she board the plane tonight.
But her actual journey began seven years ago when three men and one woman were chosen from 11,275 applicants by the Malaysian National Space Agency (ANGKASA) to spent two weeks in Star City, outside Moscow, Russia.
They were a part of the Angkasawan spaceflight training program, and Vanajah Siva was the only woman on the team.
The project was conceived in 2003 when Russia agreed to send a Malaysian to the International Space Station as part of a billion-dollar purchase of 18 Sukhoi 30-MKM fighter jets.
Out of the four candidates, two were shortlisted upon their return from cosmonaut training, and eventually an Orthopaedic Surgeon, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor was picked as the Malaysian cosmonaut-researcher to crew the Russian Soyuz TMA-11 mission on October 10, 2007.
In many interviews, Vanajah has admitted that participating in the programme was the best thing to have happened to her.
But despite being on the threshold of the greatest experience of her life, her dream was shattered when she did not make the cut for the final two.
Later in the year, Vanajah received the MEASAT Scholarship and left to pursue a master's degree at Chalmers University of Technology, in Gothenburg, Sweden, which she completed in 2009, and she is returning today to complete her PhD.
Malaysiakini recently had the opportunity to talk to this wonderful woman, walking with her down memory lane as she recounted the cherished memories of her days in the space programme.
Tonight, as she flies yet again across the Indian ocean to pursue another dream, we hope Malaysians remember Vanajah and are inspired by her story.
Anything is possible with hard work and dedication, as long as we never ever give up...
Produced by Indrani Kopal
Voiceover: Megan Radford