That woman is a total space cadet (in a good way)

Thanks to a last-minute switch, South Korea's first citizen astronaut will be female.

By Catherine Price
Published March 11, 2008 2:38PM (EDT)

According to the Associated Press, South Korea's first-ever citizen astronaut is going to be a woman. Yi So-yeon, a 29-year-old bioengineer, is set to replace the former top choice, a male artificial intelligence expert named Ko San, on a Russian mission to the International Space Station. Ko reportedly lost his spot after he was caught taking his training manual out of the Russian center where he was stationed and sending it home to South Korea. (He claimed it was a mistake, but later was accused of reading a manual he wasn't supposed to, and got kicked off the mission.) Yi got his place because she had come in second in a nationwide competition to pick a citizen astronaut and was Ko's backup.

South Korea obviously didn't make a conscious choice to have its first astronaut be female (it seems the Russians had more of a say, albeit for indirect reasons, in that decision) -- but it will be an empowering symbol nonetheless in a country that has traditionally been male dominated.

Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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