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Malaysia drops tea in space plan

Published: 3:07PM Monday December 18, 2006 Source: Reuters

Malaysia has dropped plans for its first astronaut to make a cup of tea in space, a local daily said on Monday, after its space programme was ridiculed.

Malaysia announced in September it would send its first astronaut into the heavens aboard a Russian rocket next year with a mission to make the nation's favourite hot drink, teh tarik, while orbiting Earth in the International Space Station.

But the Star newspaper, under a front-page headline "No space for teh tarik", said the voyage next October would be no tea party after all. Instead, it added, the astronaut would carry out experiments for Malaysian universities, including one on the effect of microgravity and space radiation on cancer cells.

Making teh tarik would be no small feat - it involves tossing boiling-hot milky tea from one cup to another - but one critic recently suggested in an Australian newspaper that Malaysia was wasting money with its push into space travel.

The Southeast Asian nation's obsession with food will still be reflected in the list of experiments, the Star report showed: the astronaut would take with him Malaysian fruits and herbs with the idea of developing them into space-travel treats.

The final choice of astronaut has yet to be made. The two candidates, doctor Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and military dentist Faiz Khaleed, are training for the flight in Russia.

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