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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.