The space tourist that Korea chose to pay the Russians $20 million to send up into space is being changed at the last minute:
With less than a month to go before its first astronaut travels into space, South Korea has made a last-minute change, selecting a woman instead of a man, the government said Monday.
The switch would make Yi So-yeon the second Asian woman to go into space, following Chiaki Mukai of Japan who made two trips into orbit in the 1990s.
In a news briefing, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said it has decided to switch its primary astronaut candidate for the planned April 8 launch from Ko San to Yi following requests from Russian evaluators.
“The main reason for the change is based on two consecutive violations of training protocol by Ko,” said Lee Sang-mok, the head of the ministry’s space technology bureau. Ko mistakenly sent a mission training manual home along with his personal belongings last September, but it was sent back immediately.
Last month he acquired a spacecraft pilot’s instructions that he was not authorized to read. The South Korean astronaut is a mission specialist and is required to carry out various scientific experiments in space.
“Ko was aware of the rules and signed an agreement not to break them on entering the program,” Lee said. Controllers from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) had also warned him to be careful to abide by the rules, he added. The official speculated that an urge to study every aspect of the space program may have prompted Ko to study material that he was not authorized to read.
KARI president Paik Hong-yul said the Russians emphasized the importance of following rules because minor mistakes and disobedience could have serious consequences in space.
The scientist said that Russia sent a report on the infractions on Friday along with the result of medical tests and asked South Korea to make the “right decision” on this issue. [Yonhap]
I like how the Korean media just glossed over what Ko did. He just had a “urge to study” and “mistakenly” mailed mission training manuals home. How do you mistakenly mail home not one but two manuals? Ko I am willing to bet was committing industrial espionage for the Koreans.
With Ko gone he was replaced by the back up space tourist Yi So-yeon:
Many of you may remember Yi So-yeon from Michael Hurt’s interview with her which she seems to be quite a nice and bright person. Michael is obviously quite happy with the turn of events that is sending Yi So-yeon into space. Good for her and I hope she has a great trip.
Yonhap claims that Yi So-yeon will be the 2nd Asian female into space after the Japanese astronaut Chiaki Mukai. As usual though, Yonhap is incorrect because there has been other Asian women in space such as Indian born American Kalpana Chawla. There has even been another Asian female space tourist who went up with the Russians just like Yi So-yeon is going to. Iranian born American, Anousheh Ansari blasted off into space with the Russians back in 2006. Last time I checked India and Iran were both in Asia.
If anyone is wondering why I keep calling the Korean “astronaut” a space tourist you can read my prior posting on this here along with some great comments, but the bottom line is that this whole thing is nothing more then a Korean flag waving exercise. The Korean government did not want to invest in the time necessary to have Koreans compete for NASA slots which currently a number of foreigners hold with NASA to include seven Japanese and even a Brazilian.
Korea does not want to appear to be left behind by the Japanese and Chinese space programs and thus have paid the Russians to send their “astronaut” up to make it appear Korea is on par with the Japanese and the Chinese to protect their precious image. I guess the opportunity to commit a little industrial espionage was tempting as well. So when Yi So-yeon does go into space expect a lot of Korean flag waving and a minimizing of Russian involvement in sending the first Korean “astronaut” into space.