S. Korean Astronaut Docks At Space Station

(AP) A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying South Korea's first astronaut docked successfully at the international space station on Thursday, officials said.

The Soyuz TMA-12 craft carrying Yi So-yeon, a South Korean bioengineer, and cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko hooked up with the orbiting station two days after its launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome.

“The docking went on as scheduled in automatic mode,” Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin said.

The flight was the first mission for all three space travelers.

South Korea paid Russia $20 million for Yi's flight.

Ko San, a mathematician, was originally supposed to fly on the Soyuz. He was relegated to the backup crew in March after he was accused of removing technical materials from a cosmonaut training center library without authorization. Yi, Ko's backup, replaced him on the primary crew.

The Soyuz flight also marked a milestone for the mission commander, Volkov, who became the first second-generation astronaut or cosmonaut to reach space.

Volkov's father, Alexander Volkov, is a decorated cosmonaut from the Soviet era. On his last journey, he left Earth as a Soviet citizen and returned as a citizen of the new Russian Federation, following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Volkov and Kononenko are both scheduled to spend six months as part of the orbiting station's crew. They will join American astronaut Garrett Reisman, who arrived last month on the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour.

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

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