Soyuz Launches With South Korea’s First Astronaut

South Korea’s first astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today and are on their way to the International Space Station. So-Yeon Yi, a 29-year-old female engineer joined incoming Expedition 17 commander Sergei Volkov and flight engineer Oleg Kononenko in the three-seat Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft, which lifted off at 7:16:39 a.m. EDT. Besides conducting some scientific research Yi has said she will sing to her crewmates and prepare some Korean cuisine for them as well.

Yi, the youngest woman to ever launch into space, is flying under a commercial agreement between the Russian space agency and South Korea’s ministry of science and technology. The Soyuz will catch up with the ISS in two days, and dock at the Pirs airlock module around 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 10.

Yi will spend nine days aboard the space station and return to Earth on April 19 with outgoing Expedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson and flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko, currently on board the ISS. The other astronaut on the space station, and the third member of the Expedition 16 crew, NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman, will remain aboard the lab complex with Volkov and Kononenko and become a member of Expedition 17. Reisman came to the station aboard the shuttle Endeavour in March. He will be relieved in early June by astronaut Gregory Chamitoff, scheduled to launch May 31 aboard the shuttle Discovery.

Volkov, 35, is the son of cosmonaut Alexander Volkov and is the first second-generation cosmonaut or astronaut to fly in space. The elder Volkov spent one expedition on board the Soviet Salyut space station (Salyut 7 in 1985, for 65 days) and two stay on board the Mir space station (Mir 4 in 1988 for 152 days and Mir 10 in 1991 for 175 days.)

In video shown during the Soyuz’ climb to space, Yi, seated to Volkov’s right, could be seen enthusiastically waving a thumbs up at the camera and smiling.

Original News Sources: NASA, NASA TV