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First Korean astronaut docks with space station

by Staff Writers
Baikonur, Kazakhstan (AFP) April 10, 2008
South Korea's first astronaut safely arrived at the International Space Station on Thursday, Russian officials said, in a landmark mission for the Asian country's space programme.

Yi So-Yeon, 29, arrived aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with Russian cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko and after lengthy checks stepped through a hatch to be greeted by the orbiting station's crew, a spokesman for Russia's space flight control centre told Interfax.

"The Russian cosmonauts, like gentlemen, let the Korean enter the station first," said the spokesman, Valery Lyndin.

They were greeted after their arduous flight from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan by Americans Garrett Reisman and Peggy Whitson and Russian Yury Malenchenko.

Yi, a biosystems engineer, had already begun work aboard the Soyuz on a number of experiments she is to carry out during her stay in space, a spokesman for the Baikonur cosmodrome, Oleg Urusov, said earlier.

The ISS is circling some 350 kilometres (220 miles) above the Earth at a speed of 28,000 kilometres (17,000 miles) per hour.

An international project, it is intended for scientific experiments and for testing the effects on humans of lengthy stays in space, as a precursor for more ambitious human space journeys.

Volkov is the son of former Russian cosmonaut Alexander Volkov, who launched from the Soviet Union and returned only after the Soviet collapse of December 1991, the two forming the first father-and-son space dynasty.

A planned video link-up with mission control in Moscow will give Yi's mother a first chance to speak to her daughter. In an emotional scene during the launch, Jung Kum Sun screamed and fell to the ground overcome with emotion.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak hailed Yi's mission on Tuesday as the start of a "march towards space" for his country, which is due to launch a satellite from its own space base later this year.

Officials from the Korean Aerospace Research Institute also said they hoped the launch would encourage more manned space missions by South Korea.

Yi was to return to Earth on April 19 after spending 12 days in space and has voiced hope that North Koreans will share in the "triumph" of her mission.

She will land on the Kazakh steppe with Whitson and Malenchenko, who have each spent some six months on the ISS.

Asked on the eve of the launch what her reaction would be on reaching the ISS, an excited Yi predicted she would cry out: "Like, wow!" She also said she will be holding a party for fellow crew members.

The party will take place on April 12, the day that Soviet legend Yury Gagarin became the first man in space in 1961, and Yi has promised she will sing for the crew, joking that she hoped they will like her singing.

Since it first went into orbit, the ISS has accommodated 156 astronauts from 15 countries, as well as five "space tourists."

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Astronauts Relish New Asian Space Food As Expedition 17 Docks
Moscow (AFP) Apr 10, 2008
South Korea's first astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts docked their Soyuz spacecraft with the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday, a Russian official said.

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