April 09, 2008 10:02
The Air Force has decided to produce spacecraft pilots by 2017.
Visiting the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan for the launch of the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft, which carries Korea's first astronaut Yi So-yeon into orbit, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen.Kim Eun-gi on Tuesday said the Air Force will put forward a plan to cultivate spacecraft pilots and grow into an aerospace force over the next nine to 12 years.
An Air Force official accompanying Kim said, "We are in the process of setting up a project to train commanders of spacecraft; we aim at completing it by 2017 at the orders of Chief of Staff Kim."
On the current mission, Russia does not allow Yi, whose status is designated as "flight participant," to control the spacecraft and handle devices at the International Space Station beyond engaging in certain prescribed scientific experiments.
For the future training project, only Air Force pilots who have flown jet fighters for more than 1,500 hours will be eligible for spacecraft pilots.
In Korea, pilots can complete 1,500 flight hours in five years; another three years of training will be needed for them to become spacecraft commanders, according to an Air Force official.
Kim reportedly plans to meet with high-ranking Russian Air Force officials during his visit to discuss cooperation for Korea's spacecraft commander project.
"We are also considering talking with the U.S. and China as well as Russia for the project," Kim said.
The Air Force is seeking to expand into aerospace. As part of this effort, it has singed a memorandum of understanding with the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute to develop an airborne satellite surveillance system.
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