Students of Gwangju Science High School, the alma mater of the first Korean astronaut Yi So-yeon, look up at the sky wishing for Yi’s successful journey into outer space. / Yonhap
By Kim Rahn
From the family of astronaut Yi So-yeon to primary school children, people nationwide celebrated the historic moment of the first Korean's flight into space to the International Space Station.
Yi's family members, who arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to see her off, watched the blastoff of the space aircraft Tuesday evening.
With the countdown approaching, Yi's mother, Jeong Geum-sun, said she has prayed for her daughter's safe return. ``Please come back safely. I'll make you your favorite food, `kongguksu' (noodle in cold soybean soup),'' Jeong said.
A group of 10 Korean citizens accompanied the family to the cosmodrome to show Korea's support for Yi. They sang a cheering song together before the Soyuz launch.
Cheering for Yi took place across the Korean Peninsula. Students at Gwangju Science High School, from which Yi graduated, shot off small powder rockets in the playground ahead of their senior's journey to space. A huge placard was hung on the school building to commemorate the event.
All the students watched the launch of the spaceship. ``Students feel proud of Yi, who has helped them believe their dreams can come true,'' a teacher said.
Members of ``Woojuro 245,'' the group of 245 people who passed the first test to become astronaut candidates along with Yi and her backup, Ko San, visited the satellite control center at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) in Daejeon, expressing their hopes for a successful mission.
``It is true that we hoped we'd be on the spaceship. But now our utmost hope is that Yi will complete her duty successfully and return safely,'' said Jo Seong-wook, a mechanical engineering professor at Chung-Ang University and head of Woojuro.
Young Astronauts Korea, a youth organization, is holding a quiz event on its Web site through April 19, the day Yi will return. Selected participants will receive prizes.
Elementary schools nationwide also held events in which children wrote messages to the nation's first astronaut and performed scientific experiments.
Internet users have posted cheering messages for Yi on KARI's Web site.
``You've been chosen not out of luck but due to effort. I believe you will be able to achieve all your dreams. Take care,'' Internet user Park Dae-han said.
Another user, Song Min-gyu, said ``I hope this will be a meaningful step forward for Korea to grow into a powerhouse in aerospace.''