Japan’s space agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), has announced that astronaut Soichi Noguchi has been selected for a long duration stay at the International Space Station (ISS) in 2019.
Noguchi will be part of Expedition 62/63 and stay at the ISS for six months as a Flight Engineer. He will also perform maintenance of Japan’s ISS Module Kibo and the ISS’ Mobile Servicing System (MSS), as well as help out with experiments on board the space station.
This will be Noguchi’s third time in space. First selected as an astronaut in 1996, Noguchi’s first mission took place in 2005, as a Mission Specialist for NASA’s Space Shuttle mission STS-114. In December 2009, he spent 161 days as a flight engineer aboard the ISS, as part of Expedition 22/23, along with cosmonaut Oleg Kotov and NASA astronaut Timothy Creamer. His trip to the ISS was also the first time a Japanese astronaut was delivered via a Soyuz vehicle.
This month, Noguchi has just restarted his training as a left-seater aboard the Soyuz, which is likely to be the spacecraft used. However, both JAXA and Noguchi mentioned the possibility that the Expedition 62/63 crew will be ferried by one of NASA’s new crew vehicles currently being developed by SpaceX and Boeing.
Said Noguchi, “For the crew members’ round-trip to the ISS, the mission will employ the Russian Soyuz spacecraft or the new US manned spacecraft now being developed by a private company. This consequently requires me to complete the Soyuz spacecraft left-seater training as well as training for a new type of spacecraft that will become a leading player in future manned spaceflight”. No specifics on either the spacecraft or the training programme was mentioned.
Said JAXA President Naoki Okumura, “He will return to the ISS for the first time in nearly a decade…Noguchi’s rich experience and knowledge will help to further develop Kibo utilization being expanded by the new-generation astronauts toward industry and international cooperation in addition to science and technology, and thus bring greater benefits for society”.
So far, Japan has had 10 astronauts, including Noguchi. In December this year, Japan’s newest astronaut Norishige Kanai will go to space for the first time, in ISS Expedition 54/55 with cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and NASA astronaut Scott D. Tingle.