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Backup Astronaut Yi So-yeon Replaces Ko San

Posted March. 11, 2008 03:05,   


Yi So-yeon, a 30-year-old female scientist, has replaced Ko San, 32, as the first Korean to travel space on the Russian manned spacecraft Soyuz. The government announced the reason for this replacement was the leakage of documents by Ko. The replacement implies considerable side-effects including the worsening of the credibility of Korea’s scientific circles in the global arena.

On March 10, the Education, Science and Technology Ministry and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute held an emergency press conference at the Gwacheon Government Complex and said, “The astronaut management committee decided today to change the onboard astronaut to travel to the International Space Station on April 8 from Ko San, who was initially selected, to his backup astronaut Yi, and notified as such to the Russian side.”

“Yi began taking onboard training with two other Russian cosmonauts in place of Ko from March 7,” said Lee Sang-mok, head of the space technology bureau at the Science Ministry. “This exchange in their roles is the result of a request from Russia’s space agency to replace the astronaut to be on board.”

After mistakenly taking outside a training manual last September, which is banned under the regulations, Ko again borrowed and kept a banned document arbitrarily and was caught by the Russian side in February this year, said the ministry.

Baek Hong-ryeol, head of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, explained, “As far as I know, the Russian side judged that Ko’s self-driven behavior could cause serious results to other spacemen in the real situation and requested the replacement. Since Yi has been taking the same training as Ko, who was initially chosen to go onboard, so far, there would be no setback to the project.

Insofar as Yi passes the Russian final test on March 19 and does not show particular health problems before the launch, she will ride on Soyuz scheduled to be launched from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 8, and will become the first Korean to travel space.

Meanwhile, some has raised criticism that the Korean government poorly managed astronauts after it was reported about Ko’s mistakes in the beginning, even with full knowledge of the strict security policies of Russia.

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