Soyuz Docks With International Space Station

APOperators at Mission Control monitoring a Soyuz spacecraft as it docks Thursday with the international space station.
KOROLYOV, Moscow Region -- A Soyuz spacecraft carrying South Korea's first astronaut docked successfully at the international space station Thursday.

The Soyuz TMA-12 craft and its passengers -- Yi So-yeon, a South Korean bioengineer, and cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko -- hooked up with the station two days after its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

"The docking went on as scheduled in automatic mode," Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin said.

The flight was the first mission for all three space travelers.

"Our cosmonauts had no experience but, as you saw, everything went successfully," Vitaly Davydov, deputy head of the Federal Space Agency, told a news conference at Mission Control in Korolyov, just outside Moscow.

South Korea paid Russia $20 million for Yi's flight, which followed a 2006 competition that drew 36,000 applicants to become the country's first astronaut.

Ko San, a mathematician, was originally supposed to fly on the Soyuz. He was relegated to the backup crew in March after he was accused of removing technical materials from a cosmonaut training center without authorization. Yi, Ko's backup, replaced him.

Russian space officials referred to Yi as a space flight "participant," a title reflecting her status as a commercial space traveler.