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MOSCOW, May 19 (RIA Novosti) - Malaysia's first astronaut will fly to the International Space Station on board a Russian Soyuz space shuttle in September 2007, Russia's state space agency said Friday.
Speaking at a news briefing after Russian and Malaysian officials signed a package of documents on the planned flight, space agency deputy director Yury Nosenko said: "Preparations and the selection of Malaysian astronauts have already been launched. The final choice of two astronauts will be made in late August or in September ."
Nosenko said preparations would take one year, and that the launch had been slated for September 2007.
Russia will send Malaysian astronauts into space as part of a $900-million contract signed in 2003 to supply Malaysia with 18 Russian multipurpose Su-30MKM air superiority fighters. Russia proposed sending the astronauts to the ISS as part of its bid.
Under the contract, Russia is also expected to help Malaysia open a Su MKM maintenance center.