June 2, 1978 |
Gwangju, South Korea
Time in space
|10 d 21 h|
|Selection||2006 South Korean program|
|Missions||Soyuz TMA-12, Soyuz TMA-11|
|Revised Romanization||I So-yeon|
|IPA: [i sʰojʌn]|
Yi studied at Gwangju Science High School. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees with a focus on mechanics at KAIST in Daejeon. Her doctorate in biotech systems was conferred on 29 February 2008 in a ceremony at KAIST although she was unable to be present due to her training commitments in Russia. In 2010, she enrolled in the MBA program at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley 
Yi was one of the two finalists chosen on 25 December 2006 through the Korean Astronaut Program. On 5 September 2007, the Korean Ministry of Science and Technology chose Ko San, over Yi So-yeon, following performance and other tests during their training in Russia.
On 7 March 2008, she was selected to train with the primary crew, and on 10 March the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced that Yi would replace Ko. This was after the Russian Federal Space Agency asked for a replacement because Ko violated regulations several times at a Russian training center by removing sensitive reading materials and mailing one back to Korea. On 8 April 2008, Yi was launched into space on board Soyuz TMA-12, with two Russian cosmonauts. South Korea is reported to have paid Russia $20 Million for Yi's space flight. She makes South Korea the third country, after the United Kingdom and Iran, to have a woman as its first space traveler.
Flying as a guest of the Russian government through a commercial agreement with South Korea, Yi's role aboard Soyuz and the ISS is referred to as a spaceflight participant (Russian: uchastnik kosmicheskovo poleta) in Russian Federal Space Agency and NASA documents and press briefings.
During her mission, Yi So-yeon carried out 18 science experiments for KARI and conducted interviews and discussions with media. In particular, she took with her 1,000 fruit flies in a special air-conditioned container box (Konkuk University experiment). She monitored the way the changes in gravity and other environmental conditions alter the behaviour of the flies, or their genome. Other experiments involved the growth of plants in space, the study of the behaviour of her heart, and the effects of gravity change on the pressure in her eye and shape of her face. With a specially designed three-dimensional Samsung camera, Yi took six shots of her face every day to see how it swells in the different gravity. She also observed the Earth, and in particular the movement of dust storms from China to Korea. She also measured the noise levels on board the ISS.
At the end of the mission, Yi returned to Earth along with ISS crew members Peggy Whitson and Yuri Malenchenko aboard Soyuz TMA-11, on April 19, 2008. Due to a malfunction with the Soyuz vehicle, the craft followed a ballistic re-entry which subjects the crew to severe gravitational forces up to 10 times the amount experienced on Earth. As a result of the re-entry, the TMA-11 craft used in the return flight landed 260 miles (420 km) off-course from its target in Kazakhstan. All three survived, although requiring observation by medical personnel.
Yi was hospitalized after her return to Korea due to severe back pains. Though many believed these pains were the result of the rough landing, they were in fact normal and expected. They were the result of spinal re-compression.
After her flight, Yi worked as a researcher at KARI as well as acting as Korea's space ambassador, together with Ko San. She will also receive income from future TV commercials. On 4 October 2008, Yi launched the International Institute of Space Commerce, at a ceremony held in Douglas, Isle of Man. Based on Yi's track record so early on in her career, she has been listed as one of the 15 Asian Scientists To Watch by Asian Scientist Magazine on 15 May 2011.
On August 13, 2014, the Korean Aerospace Institute announced that Yi So-yeon had resigned for personal reasons, ending the South Korean space program. On the interview, she gave two reasons as to why she quit being an astronaut: first, she was about to marry an American man and receive American citizenship; second, she wanted to study for an MBA even though the South Korean government had spent $US 20 million on her astronaut training. 
- Korean Astronaut Program
- Korea Aerospace Research Institute
- Timeline of space travel by nationality
- ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station)
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