November 20, 2020
Tokyo- Japanese astronauts Koichi Wakata and Satoshi Furukawa will stay at the International Space Station for long-term missions, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said Friday.
Wakata, 57, is expected to stay at the ISS around 2022, and Furukawa, 56, around 2023.
Wakata will travel to space for the fifth time and stay at the ISS for a long-term mission for the third time, both of which are record numbers for a Japanese astronaut. Furukawa will make a space flight and have a long-term stay at the ISS for the second time, respectively.
They are expected to head for the ISS aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or Space X, or a Starliner spacecraft being developed by Boeing Co.
Since no plan has been set for the operations of the ISS in 2024 and beyond, Wakata and Furukawa could be the last Japanese astronauts to stay at the ISS.
This week, another Japanese astronaut, Soichi Noguchi, 55, began his mission at the ISS.
Around next spring, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, 51, is scheduled to make a flight to space for a long-term mission and serve as commander of the ISS. He will be the second Japanese to hold the post, only after Wakata.
In a statement issued through JAXA, Wakata said he will strive to produce results at Japan's Kibo experimental module at the ISS to give a boost to future lunar exploration.
Furukawa said in a statement via JAXA that he wants to contribute to space medicine.
Wakata was chosen as an astronaut candidate in 1992 and made his first space flight in January 1996 aboard a U.S. Space Shuttle. In 2000, he helped build the ISS.
In 2009, Wakata became the first Japanese to stay at the ISS for a long-term mission. He served as the first Japanese ISS commander from March 2014 during the latter half of his second long-term stay.
Furukawa, a doctor, was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1999. He experienced an ISS long-term mission in 2011. Jiji Press
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