1 August 1963 |
Time in space
|347 days, 08 hours, 32 minutes|
|Selection||1992 NASDA Group|
|Missions||STS-72, STS-92, STS-119, Expedition 18, Expedition 19, Expedition 20, STS-127, Soyuz TMA-11M (Expedition 38/39)|
Koichi Wakata (若田 光一 Wakata Kōichi?, born 1 August 1963) is a Japanese engineer and a JAXA astronaut. Wakata is a veteran of four NASA Space Shuttle missions, a Russian Soyuz mission and a long-duration stay on the International Space Station. During a nearly two decade career in spaceflight he has logged more than eleven months in space. During Expedition 39, he became the first Japanese commander of the International Space Station. Wakata flew on the Soyuz TMA-11M/Expedition 38/Expedition 39 long duration spaceflight, from 7 November 2013 to 13 May 2014. During this spaceflight he was accompanied by Kirobo, the first humanoid robot astronaut.
Wakata was born in Ōmiya, Saitama, Japan, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1987, a Master of Science degree in Applied Mechanics in 1989, and a Doctorate in Aerospace Engineering in 2004 from Kyushu University. He worked as a structural engineer for Japan Airlines.
Wakata was selected by the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) (now JAXA) as an astronaut candidate in 1992, and trained at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Wakata has held a number of assignments, and during STS-85, Wakata acted as NASDA Assistant Payload Operations Director for the Manipulator Flight Demonstration, a robotic arm experiment for the Japanese Experiment Module of the International Space Station (ISS). In December 2000, he became a NASA robotics instructor astronaut. In July 2006, he served as the commander of the 10th NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission, a seven-day undersea expedition at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aquarius laboratory located off the coast of Florida. In August 2006, he started flight engineer training for Russian Soyuz spacecraft in preparation for a long duration stay on the ISS.
Wakata first flew aboard STS-72 in 1996, and then returned to space on STS-92 in 2000. Wakata was stationed at the International Space Station (ISS) and returned to earth aboard Endeavour with the STS-127 crew on July 31, 2009. On Nov 7, 2013 Wataka returned to the ISS aboard Soyuz TMA-11M for a 6-month mission covering Expeditions 38 and 39. He became the ISS commander for the last two months of that mission on Expedition 39.
On STS-72, Wakata became the first Japanese Mission Specialist. STS-72 retrieved the Space Flyer Unit (launched from Japan ten months earlier), deployed and retrieved the OAST-Flyer, and evaluated techniques to be used in the assembly of the International Space Station.
During STS-72, Wakata and fellow astronaut Dan Barry became the first people to play the game Go in space. Wakata and Barry used a special Go set, which was named Go Space, designed by Wai-Cheung Willson Chow.
Wakata became the first Japanese astronaut to work on the assembly of the International Space Station during STS-92. The crew attached the Z1 truss and Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA3) to the station using Discovery’s robotic arm. STS-92 prepared the station for its first resident crew.
Wakata served as flight engineer on STS-119, which launched to the ISS in March 2009. STS-119 delivered the S6 Truss segment to the ISS. Wakata remained on board the ISS to serve as flight engineer on Expedition 18, while STS-119 undocked and returned to Earth without him.
International Space Station - Expeditions 18, 19, 20
In February 2007, Wakata was assigned as a flight engineer to ISS Expedition 18, scheduled to begin in winter of 2008. He launched with the crew of STS-119 and was the first resident station crew member from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). He served as Flight Engineer 2 on Expedition 18, Expedition 19 and Expedition 20, before returning home as a Mission Specialist on STS-127.
Wakata was the first Japanese astronaut to take part in a long duration mission on the station.
During his time on the station, he took part in experiments suggested by the public, including flying a "magic carpet", folding laundry and push ups.
As an experiment on the station, he wore the same special underpants for a month without washing them.
Wakata returned to Earth in July 2009 aboard Endeavour with the STS-127 crew after being a flight engineer on the station. American and Canadian astronauts aboard STS-127 delivered and installed the final two components of the Japanese Experiment Module: the Exposed Facility (JEM-EF), and the Exposed Section (JEM-ES).
Wakata launched on Soyuz TMA-11M to the International Space Station in November 2013. During Expedition 38 and Expedition 39, Kirobo — who had the mission to serve as a companion robot to the astronaut — worked closely with Wakata by conducting experiments in space through verbal orders from the astronaut. One of the experiments was the first-ever human-robot conversation in space.
Wakata arrived on the International Space Station as part of Expedition 38, in late 2013.
Wakata became the commander of the International Space Station with Expedition 39, in March 2014. This marked the first time a Japanese astronaut became station commander, and only the third time an astronaut not Russian nor American was station commander. He returned to Earth on May 13, 2014.
Wakata is married to Stefanie von Sachsen-Altenburg of Bonn, Germany, and has an 11-year-old son. He is a multi-engine and instrument-rated pilot, and has logged over 2100 hours in a variety of aircraft.
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- AFP (10 March 2014). "Japanese astronaut becomes ISS commander". Space Daily.
- NASA Official Biography
- Astronauts return from space to sushi overload
|ISS Expedition Commander
10 March 2014 to 13 May 2014