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26 Mar, 2008 11:20

Space history awaits Korean cosmonaut

The first ever Korean cosmonaut is starting final preparations before blasting into space with two Russians in a fortnight. Yi So Yong will be only the 49th woman in space.

The three are heading to Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome begin final preparations for the 17th mission to the International Space Station.

It's only the second time in history that all members of a shuttle crew are travelling into space for the first time.

Yi So Yong’s compatriot Ko San had been chosen from among 36 000 candidates to represent their country on the $US30 MLN mission.

But when Ko San was accused of violating regulations by taking a training manual out of Star City – 29-year-old Yi So Yong stepped in.

She plans to take kimchi – a traditional Korean dish – with her to the ISS.

Originally a secret soviet space force facility, the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center has become Russia's only school of cosmonauts.

After two weeks of final preparations at Baikonur, the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft will be launched on April 8.

Yi So Yong is scheduled to return to Earth on April the 19th while the two Russians are going to stay there for more than six months.

Korea will become the 35th country to send astronauts into space, and the sixth in Asia.