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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 September 2007, 08:34 GMT 09:34 UK
South Korea picks first astronaut
South Korea's first astronaut, Ko San
Mr Ko beat thousands of applicants to the role
Officials in South Korea have chosen a 30-year-old engineer to be the country's first citizen in space.

Ko San, who works at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, will fly with two Russian cosmonauts to the International Space Station in 2008.

He will spend seven or eight days there, conducting a series of scientific tests.

Mr Ko was chosen over female engineer Yi Soo-yeon, 29, after the two spent time training in Russia.

The candidates, who were chosen from a list of over 36,000 applicants, have been working with Russian cosmonauts since early this year.

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

Space race

Mr Ko, from Busan, is a Seoul National University graduate who specialises in artificial intelligence.

He will conduct a total of 18 experiments during his time on the space station, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said.

His mission will make South Korea the sixth Asian country to put an astronaut in space, officials said.

South Korea is working to complete its first space centre by the end of the year, but Mr Chung said the country's space research lagged behind that of other developed nations.

"We currently lack the technology to develop our own capsule to send into space, therefore we believe first investing in human talent is more efficient in speeding up our space research project," he said.

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