Steep Reentry May Be To Blame
The first South Korean to travel
into space, Yi So-yeon, was hospitalized Tuesday after complaining
of back and neck pain.
The Associated Press reports Yi cancelled a meeting with Korean
President Lee Myung-bak before she was taken to the hospital. An
unidentified worker at the state-run Korea Aerospace Research
Institute -- where Yi works as a bioengineer -- said Yi's pain may
have resulted from the harrowing April 19 reentry of her Soyuz
TMA-11 capsule, following a visit to the International Space
As ANN reported, the Soyuz
transporting Yi, Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson, and
cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko reentered the atmosphere along a
"ballistic" trajectory, at a much steeper rate than normal. The
ride subjected the crew to as much as 10 g's -- about twice the
normal forces -- and resulted in the capsule landing some 260 miles
It was the second time in as many missions a Soyuz
malfunctioned, sending the capsule along the steeper-than-normal
reentry path. Russian officials are expected to release the cause
of the glitch by the end of May, according to the AP.
Despite the problems, however, the incident did prove the
sturdiness of the 1960s-vintage Russian spacecraft; officials later
disclosed the capsule entered the atmosphere on its side -- with
its egress hatch taking the brunt of the heat from reentry, instead
of the ellipsoidal capsule's heat shield. That resulted in
substantial damage to the capsule, and loss of the communications
antenna... but the spacecraft succeeded in protecting its human
The South Korean government paid the Russian space agency $20
million for Yi's flight to the ISS as a space tourist.
Officials would not confirm publicly Yi's hospitalization was
the result of the rocky ride home. "We are looking at various
possible reasons for her pain," said the unnamed KARI official.
During a press conference Monday, Yi admitted to the back pain,
but said Russian doctors had checked her out and found her
condition satisfactory. "I think I'll be fine after taking a rest,"