Here is a news story about the first Malaysian astronaut in space, Sheikh Muszaphar. Most of the headlines about his space trip have been about his challenges of praying in space. I had earlier lamented on the fact that the Malaysian space agency convened a two-day conference to resolve religious technical issues such as finding the direction to Mecca from space (yes they produced a whole book out of it). When money is tight, why not spend that money on holding a scientific conference instead.
On the one hand I am annoyed by this (completely) unnecessary intrusion of religion into scientific affairs (ok - affairs related to space). On the other hand, it is clear that Muszaphar has indeed become a role model for millions of youngsters in the Muslim world and many may pursue scientific careers simply because of him. Of course, his image is finely tailored by the Malaysian government (not too different from the early US space program) - and praying in space is an issue that would get tremendous public support in Malaysia. Check out the video story below - and we can see the kind of impact he is having in Malaysia. Talking about image control, he is not allowed to marry for two years by contract with the Malaysian government!
Here is the video of the news story (tip from Chaldea). [By the way, a good soundtrack for the story - though Bowie's Space Oddity - a great song - may not have been the best choice for reporting on a successful mission]