Soyuz spacecraft with first South Korean astronaut set for launch

Other News Materials 8 April 2008 14:12 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - The Soyuz spacecraft to carry South Korea's first astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts on their virgin flight to the International Space Station (ISS) was set for launch later Tuesday.

The Soyuz-FG rocket will blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on the central Asian steppe at 1116 GMT taking South Korea's Yi So Yeon and Russian first time cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko into orbit.

During her 12-day mission, nanotechnology engineer Yi will conduct 14 scientific experiments and has said she hoped her flight would spearhead scientific development in South Korea, which paid about 20 million dollars for her mission.

After docking Thursday, Yi said she would cook her colleagues Korean specialities, such as the pickled cabbage dish kimchi, and sing on Saturday in honour of the first Russian space adventurer Yuri Gragarin. Saturday is Cosmonauts' Day in Russia.

Asked Monday about her first reaction upon docking at the space station, Yi said she would shout "Wow!" news agency Itar-Tass reported from Baikonur.

She also expressed the belief that her nation would share her feelings. "The two Koreas are at one, and I want the people of the North to share the triumph of my mission together with me," Yi said.

Volkov, her commander on the mission, is the son of former cosmonaut Alexander Volkov, who left Earth from the Soviet Union and returned from outer space after its collapse in 1991.

The Baikonur Cosmodrome on the desert plains of Kazakhstan was built in Soviet times but is still used by Russia under a rental deal with Astana.