[EDITORIALS]3, 2, 1, blast offThe two candidates for Korea’s first astronaut were selected in a fierce competition of 18,000:1. Of the two, one finalist will be chosen to board the Russian space shuttle Soyuz and conduct 18 scientific experiments in space for 10 days. The event will be epochal in Korea’s space exploration history.
Since the former Soviet Union produced the first cosmonaut in 1961, 456 people from 34 countries have been in space. There have been six astronauts from Japan, three from China, and also astronauts from Mongolia, Vietnam and Cuba.
As a country with the 11th-largest economy in the world, Korea’s astronaut launch is a bit belated.
Space is becoming an arena of competition of powerful countries such as the United States and Russia, to an extent that there is a saying that the country that conquers space will conquer the 21st century. As resources become exhausted and the environment worsens, human beings’ existence on the Earth is being threatened. It is obvious that the country that discovers the first steps toward the solution of this problem in space will become the leader of the future world, both politically and economically.
Therefore, we have no choice but to have high hopes pinned on our first astronaut. During the next year or so, we hope that the candidates will train their minds and bodies and learn many things. Their priceless experience must be used to advance space science, cultivate future astronauts and make science more popular.
Countries like the United States and Russia are putting astronauts into space projects and featuring them on the lecture circuit, utilizing the lectures to stir people’s interest in science. On the other hand, some countries have produced astronauts but have not managed them afterwards, and some astronauts have ended up farming in the countryside.
Of course, we cannot eliminate the possibility that this launch may turn out to be just a one-time event, because the astronaut will be riding on another country’s space shuttle. About 20 billion won of government funds is going into this space project. If this is to be more than just a one-time “tourist” trip to space, the government must prepare in detail the entire process of the astronaut’s training as well as the management of the astronaut after the trip. We hope that Korea’s first astronaut will be able to blow life into Korea’s science scene, which has become stagnant since the Hwang Woo-suk stem cell scandal, and become the cornerstone for the development of space science.