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JAXA Astronaut Activity Report

JAXA Astronaut Activity Report, December, 2012

Last Updated: February 19, 2013

This is JAXA's Japanese astronaut primary activity report for December, 2012.

Astronaut Wakata trains in Russia for the upcoming ISS long-duration mission

Wakata trains in the Soyuz spacecraft simulator (Credit: JAXA/GCTC)

Wakata trains in the Soyuz spacecraft simulator (Credit: JAXA/GCTC)

Astronaut Wakata, assigned as an Expedition 38/39 crew member of the International Space Station (ISS), visited the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Russia and was trained mainly for the launch and descent operations involving the Soyuz spacecraft.

During the training, focusing on the life support system that constitutes one of the Soyuz spacecraft systems, Wakata simulated the actual hardware of equipment that controls air in the spacecraft and how to deal with system anomalies during launch.

To enhance the realism of the operations, donning the Sokol spacesuit, Wakata operated the hardware in the simulator. Wakata also confirmed the operations of other parts of the life support systems, including the air-conditioning, toilet, galley, and water supply systems; all of which are required from orbit insertion to docking to the ISS.

During training at the GCTC, Wakata could train alongside his future crewmates Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Turin and NASA astronaut Richard Mastracchio. Using the Soyuz spacecraft simulator, the trio engaged in manual operations toward the docking to the ISS, assuming failure of the autonomous docking system. Each performed their tasks in a steady and harmonized manner. To ensure a precise approach, they repeatedly practiced the procedure by changing the approaching conditions.

For the descent operations, in addition to the normal descent operations from the ISS, as ISS commander, Wakata also simulated emergency responses to fire and emergency return operations.

Further, Wakata entered a large centrifuge that generates artificial gravity to experience the gravitational loads during each phase of launch and descent.

Wakata and his crewmates are scheduled to launch aboard the Soyuz spacecraft at around the end of 2013 and will live and work on the ISS for about six months.

Astronaut Hoshide debriefs his mission and attends a Welcome Home Ceremony in Russia and the US.

In mid-December, astronaut Hoshide visited the GCTC in Russia to attend a debriefing session for the 32/33 Expedition mission with Russian officials as well as a Welcome Home Ceremony.

Hoshide answers questions from the press (Credit: JAXA/GCTC)

Hoshide answers questions from the press (Credit: JAXA/GCTC)

Hoshide and his crewmates pay floral tributes to the statue of Yuri Gagarin (Credit: JAXA/GCTC)

Hoshide and his crewmates pay floral tributes to the statue of Yuri Gagarin (Credit: JAXA/GCTC)

Hoshide and his crewmates NASA astronaut Sunita Williams and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko held technical debriefing sessions with related parties such as training instructors, to review the lessons learned on their activities during the mission.

At the press conference held during his stay in Russia, Hoshide discussed his flight experience aboard the Soyuz spacecraft and the scientific experiments conducted on the ISS. The crew explained the episode during the reentry phase into the Earth's atmosphere, and the beautiful plasma emissions seen from the windows like fireworks. Hoshide commented on the reentry, "I was expecting it to be more rigid, but I had time to enjoy every moment of the landing on Earth." They also discussed how the excellent training received at the GCTC meant they did not have to worry during the flight.

After the press conference, the crew visited the statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first ever man to have made a space flight. The trio reported their safe return and paid a floral tribute as a post-flight tradition. Subsequently, during the Welcome Home Ceremony involving the crew and related parties, a representative of Russian officials admired the mission commenting "Yuri, Sunita and Aki brilliantly executed the mission, in which not a single mistake was allowed, and your work on this Expedition will be an example for all future crews."

Ceremony at the Gilruth Center in Houston (Credit: JAXA)

Ceremony at the Gilruth Center in Houston (Credit: JAXA)

After completing all the events in Russia, six Expedition 32 crew members, including Hoshide, attended the Welcoming Ceremony held at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, U.S. Seeing the crew had returned safely, the audience gave them warm applause.

Astronaut Furukawa assisted the CAPCOM

Furukawa supports CAPCOM (Credit: JAXA/NASA)

Furukawa supports CAPCOM (Credit: JAXA/NASA)

Astronaut Furukawa engages in ISS ground operations while continuing to train as an astronaut, to maintain and improve knowledge and techniques for ISS operations.

On December 21, astronaut Furukawa engaged in assisting the Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) at the Mission Control Center (MCC) in JSC during the docking of the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft (33S) to the ISS.

When communicating with the crew in orbit, CAPCOM represents the ground. Astronauts often serve as CAPCOM because they are considered to be more aware of the circumstances of the astronauts in orbit. CAPCOM is responsible for auditory communication with the crew on the ship and as well as support and coordination among other mission operation centers and the onboard crew.

New Astronauts at the Front-Line

This month, my full-scale training for the ISS mission finally started, most of which was spent confirming my knowledge with little new training. As you may know, this is because I experienced ISS training when engaging in Astronaut Candidate (ASCAN) training at NASA to become an astronaut. That was nearly two years ago, but I was not sure how much I would remember... I was glad to find I remembered much more than expected! So the past training was worth doing after all, wasn't it?!

The ISS training is really tough, but also intriguing! One example is training on how to use the Portable Water Dispenser (PWD). Space food is cooked (?) with poured hot water. I enjoyed this pleasant and nice training!

The ISS training is really tough, but also intriguing! One example is training on how to use the Portable Water Dispenser (PWD). Space food is cooked (?) with poured hot water. I enjoyed this pleasant and nice training!

By the way, when working as an instructor at the National Defense Academy, a senior said to me, "The knowledge and experience remaining in students, even a decade on, are the fruits of authentic education and training! Strive to give them such worthy education and training!" Agreeing with him, I worked hard, racking my brains on how to teach them or considering which topics to discuss in front of students at morning assemblies. Personally, as someone who really likes teaching people as well as learning, I actually thoroughly enjoyed mulling over how to provide students with authentic education and training!

I can assure you that most of the abundant education and training I have had continues to serve me well, even more than a decade on. I appreciate these magnificent opportunities given to me.

I am also sure that each of you understands the importance of education and training, which is simply crucial to develop the next-generation human resources! As a matter of fact, hiring the most distinguished talents for teachers and instructors is a prerequisite for the brighter future of our nation and organizations!

Meanwhile, those educated must also work hard, not only for themselves but to meet others' expectations. Students receive the utmost education, funded by Japanese taxpayers, who anticipate their contributions in future! As I said in my previous diaries and Twitter, all knowledge or skill acquired will definitely help you! If anything goes unused, this is your decision. I believe that a resplendent future awaits both educators and students who reciprocally work hard and give their best.

What I was unaware of until becoming an adult... the rules of etiquette for national flags! No knowledge of this etiquette may result in a regrettable situation in which the entire Japanese dignity is questioned as well as embarrassing you personally! We must teach children this etiquette firmly before they go abroad, respecting the national flags of other nations as well as their own, since observing this essential etiquette enhances mutual understanding.

What I was unaware of until becoming an adult... the rules of etiquette for national flags! No knowledge of this etiquette may result in a regrettable situation in which the entire Japanese dignity is questioned as well as embarrassing you personally! We must teach children this etiquette firmly before they go abroad, respecting the national flags of other nations as well as their own, since observing this essential etiquette enhances mutual understanding.

Well, let me return to the ISS training. The instructors giving this training are not only from JAXA and NASA, but also worldwide, with knowledge and passion unrivaled worldwide. I feel awkward to say it, but I am also convinced that trainees' morale is sky-high. This genuine education helps me remember what I learned two years ago. Today, although the environment surrounding space development is severe, the future still remains bright. I can assure you that everyone here in charge of training strives proudly and single-mindedly for the future of mankind!

When teaching as an instructor at the National Defense Academy, I was not excellent, but got through it with guts. The instructors taking training for "Kibo" and "KOUNOTORI", however, are nothing less than outstanding! My astronaut colleagues highly praised their performance.

All those of you still worried about Japan's future! I understand your pessimism based on our current severe predicament, but have a good look at the younger generation now growing up! Never let your anxiety disrupt your progress forward, and actively engage in educating them under varied circumstances! All the juniors I meet perform to a higher level than when I was young! Carefully cultivating them with our mutual cooperation will surely elicit a brilliant future for Japan. (Ultimately, education and space development are key investments in our future. Neglecting this in favor of immediate results alone will leave no benefits to our posterity!)

Photos are courtesy of JAXA.

What kind of job does a vocation "astronaut" remind you of?

I suppose that many of you may think of astronauts working in space, e.g. conducting extravehicular activities in space suits, operating experimental equipment on the Space Station, impatiently awaiting a launch moment, or whatever.

Personally, like you: the first thing that has come to mind as an image of astronauts since childhood is an astronaut aboard the Apollo lunar spacecraft standing on the Moon's surface.

What is intriguing in terms of an astronaut's work is that the time spent in working in space, the original purpose, is significantly shorter compared with the length of his/her whole career.

Even when working as an astronaut over a decade, for example, an astronaut actually stays in space merely less than a month. Inevitably, that means astronauts spend most of their careers in "waiting".

So I believe the way in which we astronauts spend this "waiting" time is key to growth as an astronaut. In that sense, we had better use terms such as "prepare", "discipline", or "polish" rather than the passive verb "wait".

So, how should this time be spent?

Undoubtedly, the majority of time is spent in training. Astronauts strive in daily training to acquire the knowledge and skills required for actual spaceflight in future. The scope is wide-ranging, including linguistic training in English and Russian, training for Extravehicular Activity (EVA), use of the robotic arm, flight maneuvers and physical strength.

In addition to this training, the Astronaut Office at NASA provides astronauts with assigned jobs. Literally the office assigns jobs, which are then handled by astronauts without fixed future spaceflight schedules alongside training. Their own experiences of work alongside training are thought to help give them a broader perspective.

I should have got to the point sooner. I will briefly describe the job assign process in this month's column.

My current assigned job is to check the manifest of supplies scheduled to be transported to the ISS. Checking the lists of supplies which will be transported to the ISS by Soyuz, Progress, and the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle "KOUNOTORI", I have to verify any defects and the potential to improve any points from the perspective of astronauts receiving the material in space.

* Credit: JAXA/NASA

Compared with the Soyuz Spacecraft, a spacecraft originally designed for transporting astronauts, which does not carry many supplies and for which less list-checking work is thus required, KOUNOTORI requires a huge amount of checking, normally including over 500 items: listed in minute detail, from a pen to huge equipment. Reviewing the list, astronauts in charge of this work check whether the labels placed on items describe them clearly and accurately, whether any items require inspection before launch, and so on.


Cargo transfer vehicle to the ISS "KOUNOTORI" (HTV)

The huge amount of supplies as listed all arriving at the ISS at once imposes a huge sorting task for the astronauts in space and ground staff.

For the ISS in particular, packed with so many items, the problem of securing storage is a serious one. This is because items on the ISS tend to be daily necessities, apparatus used for experiments, emergency equipment such as oxygen masks  each of which is indispensable and cannot be disposed of so easily.

People who experience movement can understand how it is difficult to smoothly handle this point. In the case of the ISS, it is just like a loaded truck arriving at a house already full of stuff. Efficiently sorting the enormous amount of fresh supplies imposes requirements such as in-house preparation for collecting unnecessary items after use in a single place, storing new stuff in freed up space and disposing of waste after it has been packaged in a truck.

Attending a meeting to review such transportation-related plans sometimes teaches me aspects of actual discussion, and it is a good opportunity for me to review things from different perspectives.

Cooperation between astronauts and the on-ground team is indispensable to the ISS operation. Job assign, providing astronauts with opportunities to experience both sides, can be considered one of the key components of training for future spaceflights.

Personally, although tidying a room was never one of my strong points  handouts were scattered over my entire desk - my room did become cleaner when I started tidying up, particularly during the test period.

I am sure that I will have to train further and improve my weak point for my future spaceflights :-}

Hello, everyone. This is JAXA Astronaut Norishige Kanai. How did you enjoy your New Year's holiday?

We astronauts also have a New Year vacation for good refreshment and rest. In fact, physical and mental coordination during the holiday is essential for astronauts who usually undergo varied training with risks, including flight maneuver and Extravehicular Activity (EVA).

During this holiday, I participated in a one-day lecture on emergency medical care.

I used to work as a doctor for the Self-Defense Forces of Japan. Having had no chances to actually examine and treat patients since being selected as an astronaut candidate, however, I appreciated this lecture, a very precious opportunity for me to experience practical training and learn the state-of-the art medical knowledge.

The ISS, where six astronauts always reside, does not always have a member who formerly worked as a doctor. That is why, despite their past vocations, all crewmembers must engage in training for emergency medical care as well.

The content of the lecture for astronauts is almost the same as that in general on the ground: effective cardiac massage, artificial respiration with masks, how to operate an automated external defibrillator (AED) ...of course, not under weightless conditions.

Just imagine circumstances under which one of your colleagues suffering cardiopulmonary arrest immediately needs cardiac massage. Saving his life demands steadfast massage by compressing the patient's chest relatively strongly. However, massage in a weightless environment blows off astronauts who compress a colleague's chest due to its counter reaction to the compression applied.

To prevent this reaction, emergency medical care on the ISS requires the patient to be first fastened onto a stand firmly fixed to the floor by literally "tying" them there.

The deliverer must conduct cardiac massage on the patient while securing him/herself to a point via a hand rail or auxiliary belt at the same time (as shown in Photo 1). Alternatively, another cardiac massage method using weightlessness involves legs touching the ceiling and arms stretching toward the patient on the floor (as shown in Photo 2).

[Photo 1]

[Photo 1]

[Photo 2]

[Photo 2]

Specializing in medicine, I take an interest in all medical treatment on the ISS as well as emergency care, which seems to pose difficult problems due to weightlessness.

The intravenous drip is an example. Liquid medicine in a vinyl bag slowly entering a patient's body is commonly seen in TV dramas. However, under a weightless environment, this liquid medicine will never "fall" "naturally" from the bag. Making medicine drop in space requires artificial equipment like a pump which continuously sends the medicine into the human body.

Another example is an operation. You can remember well-known scenes in dramas in which a doctor wearing a sterilized surgical suit and gloves, keeping his/her hands above his waist, says, "...Scalpel!". The whole patient's body except the sterilized affected part is covered with a sterilized surgical sheet, which is intended to prevent any germs from infiltrating his/her body, which may be serious. The same applies to the use of each piece of apparatus, which is applied only after being disinfected and sterilized and keeping arms higher than the waist, which is intended to prevent hands from contingently touching any non-sterilized part.

For an operation under a weightless environment, it looks really difficult to prepare a totally clean site free of germs. Even with a patient fastened to a stand, as in the case of cardiac massage (after being anesthetized of course), an operation also needs a doctor in a stable position after being somehow secured to a point.

Additionally, with a sterilized suit and gloves, a doctor cannot coordinate his/her own posture. Accidentally disturbing the balance and touching a non-disinfected wall with his/her hand or body immediately disrupts the operation, which is compromised due to germ infiltration. Beforehand it should be noted that operation apparatus, including scalpel and tweezers (not constantly in the hands) can fly anywhere under weightlessness.

Sorry if it sounds grotesque, but once an operation, commonly accompanied by "bleeding", causes hemorrhaging from the patient's body, which may fly somewhere on the ISS, it may lead to a fatal machine disorder.

As mentioned above, engaging in medical practice in space, while facing huge hindrances, has been discussed by researchers worldwide with varied ideas and embodiments devised by any possible means. A system which can be actually tested on the ISS (while not actually involving the use of a scalpel on the human body) has been under consideration.

The gravity-related issue, while initially challenging, also opens up various possibilities: it can be easily solved with an unexpected mindset or its solution can be beneficial only on the ISS. This particularly intriguing study is part of one of the most exciting research fields in manned space development.

Though not only confined to medicine, I believe that people who think outside the box and those who enjoy solving tough problems with methods that no-one else can devise are suited to research and development concerning space.

Now let me return to the topic at the beginning of this column. As stated above, I mentioned that daily astronaut training includes risky aspects for flight maneuvers, Extravehicular Activities (EVA), and occasionally field operations.

During this training, I feel secure when finding astronauts who have had emergency care training for ISS missions, thinking that they will manage to rescue me in case I suffer an accident.

Of course no-one wants to come across such circumstances requiring emergency care, however, knowledge and skills in emergency medical care may be needed in the workplace or at home, anywhere and anytime. Recently, AED units have become ubiquitous. How many people can use them confidently?

Lectures for the general public as well as for experts are often provided. Why not try one, as training for an astronaut?

* Credit: JAXA/NASA

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