labels: News reports, Space missions
Youngest ever female astronaut and second generation cosmonaut blast off into space news
08 April 2008

Baikonur, Kazakhstan: A Russian capsule carrying South Korea's first astronaut, who is also the world's youngest-ever female astronaut, and two other cosmonauts blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, on their way to the international space station (ISS).

The Soyuz TMA-12 craft lifted off on time and entered its preliminary orbit about 10 minutes later.

South Korean bio-engineer Yi So-yeon, 29, and cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Volkov will spend two days in the capsule before docking at the ISS.

Even as live footage broadcast from inside the capsule showed Yi So-yeon, 29, smiling and waving, there was a minor emergency on the ground as her mother, Jung Kum-suk, screamed and then collapsed into the arms of her husband.

According to NASA, Yi is the world's youngest-ever female astronaut. Chosen as a back-up for Ko San, an expert in artificial intelligence, she replaced him after Russian officials accused him of unauthorized removal of technical manuals from the Star City cosmonaut training centre near Moscow.

This is also the first space flight for all three cosmonauts.

In another first of sorts Sergei Volkov makes it a first time that a son has followed his father into space. Volkov's father, Alexander Volkov, a veteran cosmonaut, spent more than a year in space. He also has the unique distinction of leaving Earth as a Soviet citizen on his last trip as a cosmonaut and returning as a citizen of the new Russian Federation, following the breakup of the Soviet Union. 

Yi has pledged to cook a Korean meal for the crew members at the station, and also to sing a song for her Soyuz crew mates on Wednesday which is Cosmonauts' Day.

Volkov and Kononenko are both scheduled to spend six months as part of the orbiting station's crew.

Yi will return to Earth on 19 April along with two of the station's current occupants, American astronaut Peggy Whitson and flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko.


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Youngest ever female astronaut and second generation cosmonaut blast off into space