Here are 20 Female Astronauts You Should Definitely Know

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13. Yi So-yeon

Yi So-yeon wasn’t just the first female from South Korea to fly in space; she was actually the first Korean ever to make it into orbit.

As you now know, it’s common, if not practically required, for astronauts to now be high-achieving academics. Yi is no exception. She has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanics from KAIST, a public research university in Daejeon, South Korea. She also earned her doctorate in biotech systems from KAIST, but was unable to attend the graduation ceremony, as she was busy training to be an astronaut in Russia. Pretty good excuse, if you ask me.

Yi was one of two finalists in the Korean Astronaut Program, an initiative by the South Korean government to send the first Korean into space. Ko San, a researcher at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, was first chosen as the candidate. However, Ko San violated Russian training protocol by removing reading materials from the training center, and even mailing one back to Korea. Yi, who had been selected as his backup, took his place.

During her 2008 mission, in which she was considered a guest of the Russian government, Yi carried out 18 separate science experiments for the Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). She studied the effects of spaceflight on fruit fly behavior and genomes, noise levels aboard the International Space Station, and the effects of zero gravity on her heart, eyes, and blood circulation.