1. I had a briefing today that the Soyuz spacecraft (37S) carrying Astronaut Koichi Wakata and his colleague from the United States and Russia, including  landed in the Republic of Kazakhstan. I am delighted that he has returned safely after completing his important mission, and at the same time feel a great deal of pride as a Japanese citizen.
  2. During his long-term stay of some six months aboard the International Space Station (ISS) after being launched into space on November 7 last year, Astronaut Wakata conducted various experiments in the fields of space medicine, materials science, and life sciences, etc. He also successfully completed several other duties, including the docking of cargo ships with a robotic arm from the Japanese experiment module “Kibo” and the release of nano-satellites.
  3. During the second half of his stay in space, Astronaut Wakata assumed command of the ISS, and achieved the aims of the mission under his leadership. This accomplishment has further deepened Japan’s contribution to the ISS program and heightened all parties’ trust in Japan’s participation. At the same time, it has marked a new chapter in the history of manned space exploration.
  4. In addition to taking the world’s first high-definition video footage of night views of Japan from space and photographs of the ISON comet, Astronaut Wakata enthusiastically sent information from space through his video messages, participation in communication events with Earth, and so on. He gave dreams and hopes to the young generation that will lead the future and provided a great boost for energizing all the people of Japan.
  5. I look forward that the further activities of Astronaut Wakata and the subsequent Japanese astronauts that will come after him will serve to expand not only Japan’s but also the world’s development and utilization of space and greatly advance the efforts for international space exploration in the future.

Hakubun Shimomura
Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan
May 14, 2014

(Research and Development Bureau, Space Development and Utilization Division)