First Korean astronaut set for April liftoff

Contributed by
Mar 10, 2008

The first South Korean astronaut, Yi So-yeon, is set to launch in April on a Russian rocket headed for the International Space Station.

There are several stories here. One is that she is the first Korean astronaut, which is cool. The second is that she replaces Ko San, who was slated to be the first, but broke some rules the Russians have set. They appear to be minor infractions involving training manuals -- the first was he sent a manual home by accident, he says, and a second violation involved getting a manual he was not supposed to receive -- but the Russian space agency takes those rules seriously, and after formally apologizing twice, I don't blame Korea for replacing him.

The third story is that Dr. Yi is young -- 29 -- and has a PhD in bioengineering. Wow. I had just gotten my degree when I turned 29, but I wasn't also training to be an astronaut!

The fourth aspect of this is that Dr. Yi a woman. I wish this weren't news, but a casual perusal of the list of space-travelers makes it clear it is. The good news is, in my opinion, soon this won't be news. Women will travel in space as much as men, and eventually we'll be an egalitarian space-faring species.

I look forward to that time very much, and so I wish Dr. Yi a good launch and journey, and hope that one day her travels won't be news any more.

In unrelated news, it turns out I cannot spell the word "astronaut" correctly the first I try, ever.

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