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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

South Korean to Ride Soyuz to Space Station Next Year

APKo San
GWACHEON, South Korea -- South Korea announced Wednesday that a 30-year-old expert on artificial intelligence would be the country's first person in space when he flies on a Soyuz capsule to the international space station next year.

The South Korean Science and Technology Ministry selected Ko San over Yi Soo-yeon, a 29-year-old female mechanical engineer, following performance and other tests during training in Russia, said the country's deputy science and technology minister, Chung Yoon.

"Ko proved to be more comfortable communicating with the Russian cosmonauts, and he scored higher on performance and scientific experiment tests," Chung said.

Ko, who has a master's degree in artificial intelligence from the elite Seoul National University, will work on the international space station for about 10 days with two cosmonauts next April, conducting scientific experiments.

"I am so happy this very moment and thank you," Ko said in a statement issued by the ministry.

Both Ko and Yi have been employed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute since being selected for astronaut training.

Ko previously worked on computer vision and artificial intelligence at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, but plans to carry out research into robotics after the space mission.

The ministry's Chung said Ko must continue to meet training expectations or risk being replaced. Yi will remain in a space mission backup role.

Ko's mission next year will make South Korea the world's 35th country and Asia's sixth to send an astronaut into space, the ministry said.