Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Science and Technology

Japanese astronauts Wakata Koichi and Furukawa Satoshi paid a courtesy visit to MEXT Minister Hagiuda Koichi on December 15 following the decision on their assignment for a long-term stay on the International Space Station. Minister Hagiuda along with State Minister Takahashi Hinako and Parliamentary Vice-Minister Mitani Hidehiro spoke with the astronauts on their enthusiasm to work in space.
Minister Hagiuda welcomed the astronauts for visiting on such a significant day in which the Hayabusa2 capsule was confirmed to return particles from the Asteroid Ryugu. The minister said he is filled with excitement and expectation for the diverse areas of research to follow.
Minister Hagiuda mentioned he is especially happy for both astronauts’ achievements being the same generation as him. The minister asked the astronauts to continue taking care of their health towards the mission, and not to lose out to the younger generation. This will be Wakata’s fifth mission set for 2022, and Furukawa ‘s second mission in 2023.
The minister said MEXT regards space exploration as not limited to research for researchers, but that the by-products and discoveries through space exploration will contribute to our health and make our lives more convenient. Minister Hagiuda asked both astronauts to help disseminate that space exploration contributes to the future of our nation and the Earth.
Astronaut Wakata said Japan can increase its international presence by showing that the utilization of the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” on the ISS, brings results in the three main areas of “science”, creating new business by the “private sector” and advancing international space exploration through “technology demonstration”. Wakata said he and astronaut Furukawa will work from the ground to support Astronaut Noguchi Soichi now in orbit, and astronaut Hoshide Akihiko selected to serve as the Commander of the ISS in 2021, and will train and prepare to strive for results utilizing the Kibo.
Astronaut Furukawa explained experiments on the ISS in which protein crystals were grown in space, and analysis of the samples found a chemical compound that prevents bacteria growth which causes periodontal disease. Furukawa also said that space medicine research now being administered on astronauts aboard the ISS, aims to solve symptoms including muscular atrophy and the weakening of bones that occurs when spending long hours in an antigravity environment.
Furukuawa said in his 2023 mission, he will serve as a science research operator, while serving as a subject, himself, for space medicine research. He added the recruitments for new astronauts will begin from autumn 2021, and hopes people interested in lunar exploration will apply, and is looking forward to working together with them.

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