Computer Scientist Will Go to Space in April
Ko San beat out Yi So-yeon in the race to become the first Korean in space next year.
The Ministry of Science and Technology announced Wednesday that it had selected the 30-year-old computer engineer for a trip to the International Space Station (ISS) next April, as he had a better record than Yi, a 29-year-old female scientist, in training programs in Russia.
After completing his eight-day orbital tour, Ko is to work as a government researcher and an ambassador for space science and technology.
South Korea has been increasing its investments to embark on its own space exploration projects in the coming decades _ the astronaut program was the first of these.
``I am so happy at this moment, and I thank you all,'' Ko, currently staying in Russia, said in a statement. ``As a man who has cherished dreams and hopes about space, I hope that this project is not just producing a celebrity, but is to become the groundwork for Korea's ventures into space.''
Though losing in the competition, Yi will remain in training as a back-up so she can take over if Ko has trouble flying, the ministry said.
``I don't think that one single man alone should carry the burden of leading Korea's space science. I think we two astronauts and many other people should work together for the goal,'' Yi said.
Ko will board a Russian Soyuz spacecraft along with two Russian cosmonauts, Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, and will stay for eight days in the ISS orbiting 300 kilometers above the earth's surface. The ministry has already made a list of various experiments Ko is scheduled to perform in the space station.
The astronaut program is planned to attract Koreans to space science and technology. Though some have played it down as a space tourist program, the ministry received 36,206 applications last summer when it announced the project. Ko and Yi were picked as the final candidates in December through a series of rigorous physical and intellectual tests and a TV poll.
Ko was born in Busan and raised in Seoul. He graduated from Seoul National University and was a researcher at Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology in the artificial intelligence and computer vision field, before being picked for the astronaut program.
As well as intellectual ability, he is also known to have athletic talents. With a medium-built body (1.7 meters and 68 kilograms), he won a bronze medal in the national amateur boxing competition in 2004 and had served as a member of the Seoul National University mountaineering team. In 2004, he climbed Mustagh Ata, a 7,546-meter high mountain in China.