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3 Apr, 2008 04:19

Korean woman primed for Soyuz space mission

Preparations for Russia's 17th mission to the International Space Station (ISS) are underway at Baikonur Kosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Two Russian cosmonauts and the first ever Korean female astronaut are set to blast off into orbit in a Soyuz spacecraft on A

Baikonur is the oldest and the largest cosmodrome in the world. For more than 50 years it has been contributing to space exploration, and it’s set to continue the job for the foreseeable future. Yury Gagarin became the first man to launch into the cosmos from Baikonur.

The Flight Commander of Expedition 17, Sergey Volkov, and flight engineer, Oleg Konanenko, cut their teeth as back-up crews. But within a few days, they will be on the frontline themselves.

Joining them will be South Korea’s first astronaut and only the second Asian woman in Space.

Twenty-eight year old Yi So-yeon is a Bioscience PhD student. She has been training since early 2007 and won the honour of space travel ahead of 36,000 other contenders in a national competition.

“The first-ever spaceflight by a South Korean astronaut is crucial to us. It will make a huge contribution to the development of astronautics in South Korea,” Kim Tae-yon, a South Korean journalist, said.

The whole crew has undergone rigorous training and tests, both physical and mental.

Ms Yi is a Taekwondo expert, Sergey Volkov likes tennis, while Kononenko is into team sports – and space flight is the ultimate team effort.

All three are trying to find time to relax as they get ready to face the test of their lives, defying gravity, controlling a multi-billion-dollar space ship, and carrying out essential work and experiments at the International Space Station.