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4 Apr, 2008 01:27

Soyuz crew test capsule before blast-off

With just a few days to go before the launch of Russia’s 17th mission to the International Space Station, two Russian cosmonauts and the first ever Korean female astronaut are undergoing last-minute training.

It’s a momentous occasion for the three main crew members – Commander Sergey Volkov, Flight Engineer Oleg Konanenko and South Korean, Yi So-yeon.

All three have been getting used to the capsule before take-off on April 8. They’ve tested the equipment, tried on their custom-made space suits and sat in their pre-moulded and ergonomically designed flight seats.

They’ve also looked in on the progress rocket, which the cosmonauts will see again in space in May, when it will carry vital supplies to the ISS.

There are certain traditions, some would say superstitions, which are followed before a manned space flight. One of them is visiting the cosmonaut’s museum. For Sergey Volkov, the occasion is a special one. He is following in the footsteps of his father Aleksandr. It means he’ll become the world’s first second-generation cosmonaut.

In another milestone, Yi will be the 50th woman in space.

The cosmonauts also had an opportunity to pay their respects to the men who epitomised both the dreams of the Soviet Union, and mankind. They went to see the house of Aleksandr Korolyov, the chief designer of the Soviet space experiment. He was responsible for putting the first satellite in space, the first living creature (Laika, the dog) and, of course, Yury Gagarin.