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First Korean Astronaut Begins Historic 12-day Mission

Posted April. 08, 2008 06:26,   


Korea’s first astronaut, Yi So-yeon, is set to blast off into orbit Tuesday evening.

The Russian Soyuz spacecraft, carrying Yi, is scheduled to lift off for the International Space Station (ISS) from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome at 5:16 p.m. local time (8:16 p.m. Korean time).

Director Paik Hong-yul at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) said on Monday, “Yi is in good shape and the blast-off will go according to the schedule.”

Yi is scheduled to begin her historic day at 8:46 a.m., eight and a half hours before the launch, in the Cosmonaut Hotel nearby the cosmodrome. After attending a celebration to mark the launch of the mission in space with the head of the Russian space agency and relevant officials present, Yi will receive a final medial check-up before leaving. If no problems are found, she will then prepare for the launch. If not, she will be replaced by her backup Ko San.

Yi will put on “Sokol” spacesuits four hours and 50 minutes prior to the blast-off, the moment from which she will be strictly isolated to prevent any infection.

Yi will be officially recognized as a member of the 17th ISS expedition, which has been held since 1998, the year ISS was launched, in a ceremony scheduled at 2:11 p.m. where the crew will confirm that they are ready to fly.

On the bus to the launch pad, Yi will relax herself while watching video containing messages of encouragement from her family and friends.

At 2:46 p.m., two and a half hours before the launch, Soyuz flight’s three-member crew will wait for the lift-off after closing the hatch located at the upper part of the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft.

The spaceship will blast off with a deafening roar at 5:16 p.m. Russian spacecrafts are lifted off without a countdown like in the United States.

An official from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said, “Russia has a tradition of launching their spacecrafts even on rainy or cloudy days as long as no errors are found in the rocket.”

The Soyuz-FG rocket that will carry the crew, including Yi, to the ISS is preparing for a blast-off at the launch pad. A Korean flag, along with the logos of the Science Ministry and the KARI, is painted on the upper part of the rocket’s body.

Energia Aerospace Corporation’s Valeri Kapitonov, who is in charge of the launch, said, “The rocket has been installed successfully in the spacecraft, and they are ready for the journey.” After the blast-off, the spacecraft will dock at the ISS, 354 kilometers above the earth’s surface on Thursday, after maneuvering around the planet 34 times for two days. During her 10-day stay at the ISS, Yi will perform 18 scientific experiments and return to Kazakhstan on April 19.

Meanwhile, Ko San will be in charge of communication with the spacecraft at the Russian Mission Control Center (MCC) near Moscow.