Yi So-Yeon, first South Korean in space

South Korea's 29-year-old Yi So-yeon became the country's first astronaut to travel into space after her Russian Soyuz spaceship took off from the launch pad once used by pioneer Yuri Gagarin, heading for the International Space Station.


A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying South Korea's first astronaut blasted off into space on Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz TMA-12 spaceship disappeared into a clear sky as planned at 5:16 p.m. (1116 GMT) after lifting off from the world's oldest space launch pad, used by Russia's Yuri Gagarin when he became the first human in space in 1961.

Yi So-yeon, a 29-year-old nanotechnology engineer, began her journey to the International Space Station (ISS) alongside Russian cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko.

Originally a reserve candidate, Yi was picked for the flight last month after Russia accused Ko San, the primary South Korean crew member, of removing sensitive documents from a training centre. Ko later apologised for his actions.

The South Korean government paid Russia about $25 million for the right to send the first Korean into space. Along with
her Russian colleagues, Yi will conduct scientific experiments at the ISS during her 11-day mission.

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