As evidence that Russian space toilets are superior :-), NASA will be paying Energiya $19 million to construct another toilet to be installed in the U.S. segment, to cater for the crew increase to 6 in 2009 (the loo will be installed in 2008). (This was even reported in Saturday’s The Age.) There is a thread on the topic at NASASpaceflight.com.
I found an official website, Angkasawan Programme Website, for the Malaysian cosmonauts to go up on the next Soyuz flight (TMA-11). Spacemen are called “Angkasawan” in Malaysian. They are also keeping a blog, which is interesting reading (though they need to close the earlier entry comments as the pesky spammers are posting). The site is, thankfully, not as cumbersome as Charles Simonyi’s Flash-animated site (though it still uses tables for layout, tsk, tsk).
The programme is part of an offset agreement between Malaysia and Russia in relation to Malaysia’s purchase of Russian-made Sukhoi-30MKM fighter jets. Through this package, the Russian government agreed to train two Malaysians, one of which will make the journey while the other one will act as his backup. The Russian Government will bear the costs.
If the Australian government would buy Su-30s perhaps we could get to send up an Australian in exchange! Wishful thought...
“Russia Declares Its Independence In Space”, Space Daily, 12/7. A short history of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia’s only independent launch center (i.e. not dependent upon other countries, such as the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is).