South Korea's First Astronaut Hospitalized With Back Pain
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) South Korea's first astronaut has been hospitalized with back and neck pain apparently caused by the unexpectedly steep descent of her Russian space capsule when it returned to Earth, officials said Wednesday.
Yi So-yeon was taken to a hospital Tuesday due to the pain after she canceled a meeting with President Lee Myung-bak, according to the state-run Korea Aerospace Research Institute, where she works as a bioengineer.
The Science Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that preliminary tests showed Yi suffered a minor injury to her neck muscles and bruised her spinal column.
The ministry said there was no serious health problem but will determine later whether to allow her to resume public activities after conducting more tests.
Jung Ki-young, head of the air force-affiliated Aerospace Medical Center where Yi is hospitalized, refused to publicly disclose details of her health, according to the ministry statement.
Earlier Wednesday, an KARI official said her pain may be the result of the spacecraft's steeper-than-usual descent when it landed April 19. A technical glitch apparently caused the capsule to land about 420 kilometers (260 miles) from its target on Kazakhstan's barren steppe.
"We are looking at various possible reasons for her pain," the official said on condition of anonymity, citing institute policy.
The three-person crew in the Soyuz capsule was subjected to forces of about eight times Earth's gravity for up to two minutes. Normal Soyuz returns have G-forces of about five.
Russia's Interfax news agency said the capsule entered the atmosphere improperly, with its hatch first instead of with its heat shields leading the way. As a result, the hatch suffered significant damage and the capsule's antenna burned up.
South Korea's Science Ministry said Russian authorities were expected to announce the cause of the flawed landing by the end of May.
On Monday, Yi told a news conference after returning to South Korea that she had been suffering some back pain since the landing but that Russian X-ray tests showed her condition was satisfactory.
"I think I'll be fine after taking a rest," she said.
The South Korean government paid Russia US$20 million (euro13 million) for her flight to the international space station.
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