Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

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GWACHEON, South Korea (AP) — South Korea announced Wednesday that a 30-year-old expert in artificial intelligence will be the country’s first person in space when he flies on a Russian Soyuz capsule to the International Space Station early next year.


South Korea’s Ko San, a 30-year-old robotics expert, will be the country’s first person in space.

The Ministry of Science and Technology selected Ko San, who works at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, Vice Science Minister Chung Yoon said.

Ko, who has a master’s degree in artificial intelligence from the elite Seoul National University, beat out Yi Soo-yeon, a 29-year-old female mechanical engineer, following performance and other tests during their training in Russia.

Ko will work on the international space station for about a week with two Russian cosmonauts in April, conducting scientific experiments. Yi will remain in a space mission backup role.

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

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.

South Korea is scheduled to complete the country’s first space center in Goheung, 293 miles south of Seoul, by the end of next year, a move aimed at laying technical and scientific groundwork for its own space exploration in coming decades.

Since 1992, South Korea has had 11 satellites launched, mostly for space and ocean observation and communications, according to the ministry.

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Mundia Sikatana, facing camera

LUSAKA – Zambia’s sacked foreign minister, Mundia Sikatana has refuted President Levy Mwanawasa’s assertion that his health was failing.

Sikatana told reporters over the weekend that he was very fit and that he was forced out because of his on how to handle such issues as the Zimbabwe crisis for which the president is backing down from his previous criticism of President Robert Mugabe’s policies that have plunged Zambia’s once prosperous southern neighbour into a basket case. 

However, Sikatana continued criticizing Mugabe and his own boss whom he recently told to “let your attention be on Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans are flocking looking for food in the region”. 

Mwanawasa, who recently took over as SADC chairman, sacked his foreign minister and close ally saying his health appears to be failing but without giving a concrete reason for the move. 

Mwanawasa said in a statement released to state media that Sikatana had been sacked with immediate effect. 

“I very much regret that I am terminating your services as minister of foreign affairs with immediate effect,” Mwanawasa said in excerpts of his letter to Sikatana contained in the statement. 

Mwanawasa said Sikatana, a nominated member of parliament, would retain his parliamentary seat until it is revoked. 

But Sikatana told reporters he had turned down the offer to remain in parliament because it was not an effective use of his time. 

Mwanawasa replaced Sikatana with Tourism Minister Kabinga Pande and promoted his deputy, Michael Kaingu, as tourism minister. 

Sikatana also accused the government of Sudan in July of complicating the crisis in the Darfur region, a no-no in African politics where brother regimes are criticized at one’s peril.