Yi So-yeon


Yi So-yeon
Yi So-yeon (NASA - JSC2008-E-004174).jpg
Born (1978-06-02) June 2, 1978 (age 43)
NationalitySouth Korean
Space career
KAP Astronaut
Time in space
10 d 21 h
Selection2006 South Korean program
MissionsSoyuz TMA-12, Soyuz TMA-11
Mission insignia
Soyuz TMA-12 Patch.png Soyuz TMA-11 Patch.png
Korean name
Revised RomanizationI So-yeon
McCune–ReischauerYi Soyŏn
IPA: [i so.jʌn]

Yi So-yeon (born June 2, 1978) is a South Korean astronaut and biotechnologist who became the first Korean to fly in space.[1] Upon return from her mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Yi continued as a KARI researcher attending the International Space University before retiring from the agency to pursue an MBA at the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business and joining commercial astronaut corps the Association of Spaceflight Professionals.


Yi So-yeon was born to father Yi Gil-soo and mother Jeong Geum-soon, and raised in Gwangju, South Korea.[2]

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 February 29, 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[3] In 2015 she taught at Everett Community College in Washington State as an Engineering Physics Professor.[4][full citation needed]

Space career

Korean astronaut program

Yi So-yeon and Ko San participate in a space station hardware training session in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at the Johnson Space Center by Crew Systems instructor Glenn Johnson.
Yi So-yeon and Ko San participate in a space station hardware training session in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at the Johnson Space Center by Crew Systems instructor Glenn Johnson.

Yi was one of the two finalists chosen on December 25, 2006 through the Korean Astronaut Program. On September 5, 2007, the Korean Ministry of Science and Technology selected Ko San as the primary astronaut, and Yi So-yeon as backup, following performance and other tests during their training in Russia.[5][6]

A change was made on March 7, 2008, when Yi was selected to train with the primary crew, and confirmed on March 10 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.[7][8][9][10] On April 8, 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.[11] She is the third woman, after Helen Sharman of the United Kingdom and Anousheh Ansari an Iranian American, to be the first national from their country in space.


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.[12]


During her mission, Yi So-yeon carried out eighteen 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).[citation needed] 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.[13] She also measured the noise levels on board the ISS.[14]

Yi So-yeon with NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson (right), Expedition 16 commander, and Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko (middle), flight engineer, at the International Space Station.
Yi So-yeon with NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson (right), Expedition 16 commander, and Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko (middle), flight engineer, at the International Space Station.

South Korean scientists created a special low-calorie and vitamin-rich version of kimchi for Yi.[15]

Return flight

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.[16]

Yi was hospitalized after her return to Korea due to severe back pains.[17] 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.[citation needed]


After her flight, Yi worked as a researcher at KARI and as Korea's space ambassador with Ko San. She will receive income from future TV commercials.[18] On October 4, 2008, Yi launched the International Institute of Space Commerce at a ceremony held in Douglas, Isle of Man.[citation needed]

In 2009, Yi became the first astronaut to attend the International Space University (ISU) Space Studies Program (SSP) at NASA Ames Research Center, held in conjunction with the inaugural class of the Singularity University (SU) Graduate Studies Program (GSP).[citation needed]

Based on her track record so early on in her career, Yi was listed as one of the Fifteen Asian Scientists To Watch by Asian Scientist Magazine in May 2011.[19]


On August 13, 2014, the Korean Aerospace Research Institute announced that Yi had resigned for personal reasons, ending the South Korean space program. In the interview, she gave two reasons as to why she resigned from the program: first, she was preparing to marry a Korean-American man; second, she wanted to study for an MBA.[20]

Association of Spaceflight Professionals

After receiving her MBA at the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business, Yi joined the Association of Spaceflight Professionals.[21]

See also


  1. ^ 바이코누르 (April 8, 2008). 한국 최초 우주인 이소연과 그 동료들 (in Korean). Yonhap news hosted by JungAng Ilbo. Archived from the original on April 15, 2008.
  2. ^ Astronaut Gives Dream to Youth, The Korea Times August 4, 2008 – Kim Rahn
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 14, 2014. Retrieved August 14, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ https://www.everettcc.edu/directory/faculty/index.cfm?eid=1337
  5. ^ "South Korea to announce its first astronaut". International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. September 4, 2007. Retrieved March 10, 2008.
  6. ^ Yoon, Sangwon (September 4, 2007). "South Korea taps robotics expert as 1st astronaut". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved March 10, 2008.
  7. ^ "South Korea Will Send Woman Into Space". globalsecurity.org. March 10, 2008. Retrieved April 8, 2008.
  8. ^ "South Korea Switches to Backup for First Astronaut Flight". space.com. March 10, 2008. Retrieved April 8, 2008.
  9. ^ "S. Korea names woman as first astronaut". CNN.com. Associated Press. March 10, 2008. Archived from the original on March 15, 2008. Retrieved March 10, 2008.
  10. ^ "1st Korean Astronaut Could Be a Woman". Dong-A Ilbo. March 10, 2008. Retrieved March 10, 2008.
  11. ^ "The First Korean in Space Is a Woman". abcnews.go.com. March 10, 2008. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  12. ^ "Expedition 17". NASA. Retrieved April 9, 2008.
  13. ^ South Korea's First Woman Astronaut Lifts Off Into Space Archived April 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Voice of America – Kurt Achin
  14. ^ Astronaut tests aimed at enhancing space science, biotech Yonhap News April 8
  15. ^ Choe Sang-hun (February 22, 2008). "Kimchi goes into space, along with first Korean astronaut". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved April 9, 2008.
  16. ^ "Soyuz crew endures severe G-forces on re-entry". CNN. April 19, 2008.
  17. ^ S. KOREA'S FIRST ASTRONAUT HOSPITALIZED AFTER ROUGH LANDING Archived May 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Cho Jin-seo (April 8, 2008). "Yi Ready for Blasting Off Into Space". The Korea Times. Retrieved April 9, 2008.
  19. ^ "The Ultimate List Of 15 Asian Scientists To Watch – Yi So-Yeon (이소연)". AsianScientist.com. May 15, 2011. Retrieved May 21, 2011.
  20. ^ "South Korea's First and Only Astronaut Just Quit Her Job". MSN.com. August 13, 2014. Archived from the original on August 13, 2014. Retrieved August 13, 2014.
  21. ^ "ISU Alumni Representative Election Results – Appointment of Soyeon Yi". International Space University. Retrieved June 22, 2019.

External links

  • Spacefacts biography of Yi So-yeon
  • A series of interviews with Seoul Glow
  • Yi So-yeon on Instagram