First Korean astronaut to be selected next yearThe government will begin screening volunteers to find a Korean to send into space from next year. The Ministry of Science and Technology announced yesterday in its budget proposal that it will spend 1.5 billion won ($1.3 million) next year as part of its plan to find Korea’s first astronaut. Last week, the government began laying out the framework for the project after firming ties with Russia on space program development. The ministry expects hundreds of people to compete to be Korea’s first astronaut. In Japan, a similar nationwide search resulted in a competition ratio of 300 to 1. In Britain, it was 6,500 to 1. “Over six months, we will select three candidates through physical examinations, science tests and interviews. After 18 months of training in Russia, we will narrow it down to one,” a ministry official said. In Russia, the three candidates will go through substantial training, including studying the structure of rockets, and the space environment. They will be put through a battery of physical tests. They will also learn how to work in zero-gravity conditions. In a simulator, they will practice fighting against the pull of gravity when the capsule takes off, and when it reenters the earth’s atmosphere. The final candidate will be put on a Russian space vehicle toward the end of 2007 and stay for about 10 days at the International Space Station, performing various scientific tasks and experiencing space activity. The ministry said that taking into consideration the harsh conditions as well as the ability needed to pass the tests, a healthy person who has studied science and engineering will probably have the best chance of being selected. It pointed out, however, that the first Japanese person in space was a broadcast reporter, and that all possibilities are being considered. The ministry expects to spend about 20 billion to 25 billion won in total on the project. “Until the final candidate is chosen, the entire process will be in the spotlight and will have great advertising value,” said Science Minister Oh Myung. “If we can get broadcasting companies and advertisers on board, it won’t cost that much.” by Shim Jae-woo, Wohn Dong-hee
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