Page last updated at 13:29 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 14:29 UK

S Korean astronaut arrives at ISS

Yi So-Yeon
Yi So-Yeon appears on a mission control screen with crewmates

A Russian capsule carrying South Korea's first astronaut has docked with the International Space Station (ISS).

Yi So-Yeon and two Russian cosmonauts blasted off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old bio-engineer will spend about 10 days in space and conduct a series of scientific tests - some of which she has already begun work on.

The mission makes South Korea the ninth Asian country to have had an astronaut in space.

Before the launch, Ms Yi had boarded the rocket flashing a thumbs-up and saying she felt "great".

Ms Yi was chosen from about 36,000 applicants for the mission, which is costing South Korea about $20m (10m).

Initially the back-up astronaut, she was moved up after Russian officials said the first-choice, 31-year-old Ko San, had broken space centre rules.

'Wow'

She flew to the station in a Russian Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft alongside flight engineer Oleg Kononenko, 43, and Sergei Volkov, 34, the son of a famous Soviet cosmonaut.

At a news conference on Monday, journalists asked Ms Yi what she would do when she arrived at the ISS.

South Korea's first astronaut, Yi So-yeon
Ms Yi was chosen from about 36,000 applicants for the historic flight

"I guess first of all I am going to shout: 'Wow!'," she replied.

She hoped that her spaceflight would help ease ties between the two Koreas.

"I hope someday they will be one, and I hope the North Korean people will be happy with my flight," she said.

The first Asian astronaut (or cosmonaut) was Vietnam's Pham Tuan, who travelled on a Soviet Soyuz mission in 1980.

Since then, citizens of Mongolia, Afghanistan, Japan, India, Kazakhstan, China and Malaysia have also journeyed into space.

Ms Yi is scheduled to return to Earth on 19 April with the outgoing crew of the ISS.


SEE ALSO
South Korea swaps first astronaut
10 Mar 08 |  Asia-Pacific
S Korea to send 'kimchi' to space
13 Feb 08 |  Asia-Pacific
South Korea picks first astronaut
05 Sep 07 |  Asia-Pacific
South Korea buys into space dream
12 Nov 07 |  Asia-Pacific


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