Propelling Malaysia into space

Giants in History: Malaysia’s first astrophysicist, Mazlan binti Othman (born 11 December 1951) was instrumental in launching the country’s first microsatellite, and in sending Malaysia’s first astronaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, into space.

The first landmark was realised while Mazlan served as Director General of the government's new Space Science Studies Division in the 1990s; the second during her term (between 2002 and 2007) as founding Director General of Angkasa, the Malaysian National Space Agency. She has also had a significant impact at the international level.  Appointed by the United Nations twice to the post of Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), Mazlan has tackled issues including international cooperation in space, prevention of collisions with space debris, the use of space-based remote sensing platforms for sustainable development, co-ordination of space law between countries, and the risks posed by near-earth asteroids. Her path towards this illustrious career began when her teachers recognised Mazlan’s aptitude for science and encouraged her to study the subject. After obtaining a PhD in astrophysics from New Zealand’s University of Otago, Mazlan returned to Malaysia where she led the creation of the astrophysics programme at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. She also oversaw the development of Planetarium Negara, Malaysia's national planetarium, before moving into her pioneering roles with the country’s space program. Mazlan’s work has been recognized through her receipt of the President's Medal, awarded by the Institute of Physics (IOP), and the "Polarstern-Preis" (Polarstar Award) from the Austrian Space Forum. In the 1997 Agong’s honours list, Mazlan was conferred the federal decoration Panglima Jasa Negara, which comes with the title "Datuk".