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21 Apr, 2008 05:51

S Korea hails space hero

South Korea's first astronaut, Yi So-yeon, is being hailed as a hero in her home country. The 29-year-old, who returned to Earth at the weekend on board a Russian Soyuz capsule, insists she is “just an ordinary woman”.

Yi So-yeon spent nine days at the International Space Station, pent up with other Russian and American space travellers. 

“Until now I can’t believe I became some kind of a hero in South Korea.” she told the media.  

Yi So-yeon traveled back with U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson and Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko who had been on the station for several months.

The crew, which returned from the International Space Station on Saturday, have given a press-conference in Star City in the Moscow region.

One of the main questions raised by journalists was the issue of the landing. As it was reported, the capsule did not make a regular descent but came in at a steeper angle, known as a 'ballistic trajectory'.

According to the Mission Control, the space ship touched down 420 km to the right of the landing site at 12.51 Moscow time, about 20 minutes later than expected.

“We came from space”

Yury Malenchenko have his account of his first encounter with Earthlings when the capsule landed.

“When I stepped down I saw a vehicle approaching. It held around seven locals, and then another 15 people arrived. All of them were perplexed to see the space capsule. One asked if it was a boat, the other suggested that we jump off the craft. With little success, I tried to explain to them that we came from space. They didn’t understand what it meant. Having noticed space-suits they said ”Look, these suits look like space-suits.“ That was rather exciting,” he said.

The astronauts are now going through the recovery period.

U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson became the first female crew commander ever.

Yury Malenchenko conducted a seven-hour-long spacewalk during his stay at the station. He also managed to vote twice while in orbit, during Russia's parliamentary and presidential elections.