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First Korean astronaut 'honoured' about space mission

by Staff Writers
Star City, Russia (AFP) March 18, 2008
The 29-year-old woman set to become South Korea's first astronaut said on Tuesday she was "honoured" to have been chosen, as she took final tests at Russia's astronaut training centre.

"I am honoured. I will try to do my best. Not just for (myself) but as the first Korean astronaut," said Yi So-Yeon, a biosystems engineering student, before climbing into a model Soyuz capsule for tests.

Smiling broadly, she said the months of training had been "difficult" but also "interesting and exciting."

Yi is to blast off for the International Space Station on April 8 with Russian cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, who will also be first-timers in space.

They will be launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome, which is leased by Russia.

South Korea is paying 27-million-dollars (17-million-euros) towards the cost of the flight.

Yi said she would be taking with her a specially engineered version of kimchi, South Korea's beloved pickled dish, as well as instant noodles and cinnamon tea.

She was selected earlier this month after fellow Korean Ko San was disqualified for violating procedures by taking training manuals out of the Soviet-era Star City training centre without permission, officials said.

Ko and Yi have been training together in Russia since last year.

Yi is scheduled to return to Earth on April 19 after conducting experiments on the ISS. Her mission will make South Korea the 36th country to put a person into space since Russia sent Yury Gagarin into orbit in 1961.

South Korea last year announced an ambitious plan to launch its own lunar orbiter by 2020 and send a probe to the Moon five years after that.

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Successful Manoeuvres Position Jules Verne ATV For Crucial Tests
Paris, France (ESA) Mar 13, 2008
Jules Verne ATV successfully performed two boosts today, bringing the spacecraft to an altitude of 303 km - half-way between the insertion orbit reached after last Sunday's launch and the orbit of the International Space Station.

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