[FOUNTAIN] Tickets for Space

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[FOUNTAIN] Tickets for Space

In Greek mythology, Daedalus made wings out of wax and feathers for himself and his son Icarus. They flew together, but Icarus went too close to the sun, falling to his death when the wax melted. Until centuries later, flying was a story only possible in mythology. Flying in space was once a story only of dreams.

That dream came true 40 years ago. Yuri Gagarin, a 27 year-old Soviet Air Force officer, realized it on April 12, 1961, when he climbed into the spacecraft Vostok I and made one orbit of the earth, in an hour and 8 minutes at a speed of 29,000 kilometers per hour. It had been one hundred years since Jules Verne, a French science fiction writer, stirred people's imagination with an 1865 story of space flight. In his novel, "From the Earth to the Moon," a group of men traveled to the moon in a cannon ball-shaped spaceship launched from an enormous gun.

In October 1957, the USSR launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik, deflating the pride of the United States. Inspired by that success, the Soviet Union was again first to put a human into orbit, clearly demoralizing its American rival. The Soviet media were swept by excitement at what they called the greatest event in human history thus far. "The earth is blue!" Mr. Gagarin exclaimed at seeing the earth from space. On landing, he said, "Let the Communist Party, our country and General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev know that I have landed on earth safely." Listening to the comments of the returned cosmonaut wired by Itar-TASS, a Russian News Agency, then-USSR leader Nikita Khrushchev was thrilled and proud.

An American millionaire businessman, Dennis Tito, reportedly will make a space trip at the end of this month. Russia approved Mr. Tito's flight on board the Soyuz, a spacecraft departing for the international space station on April 28. Mr. Tito will thus be the first space tourist. News reports said he will pay $20 million for a one-week stay in space.

Mr. Tito was 20 when Mr. Gagarin flew in 1961. Since then, he says, he has dreamed of a trip into space, making it his life's goal. Now 60, his long awaited dream is coming true. Forty years will have passed from the first human space flight to the first space tour.

Recently, the Korean government announced a plan to build a space center at Oenaro Island. The government plans to develop and launch independently a small artificial satellite based on Korea's own technology by 2005. If anyone in Korea ever dreams of flying into space, he may be better off trying to become another Mr. Tito than becoming Korea's Mr. Gagarin, orbiting in his own country's spacecraft - but that will be possible only if the economic stagnation in Russia continues and they continue to sell space trips for hard cash.

by Bae Myung-bok

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