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JAXA Astronaut Activity Report

JAXA Astronaut Activity Report, January, 2013

Last Updated: March 29, 2013

This is JAXA's Japanese astronaut primary activity report for January, 2013.

Astronaut Noguchi conducted flight piloting training

Noguchi performs a preflight inspection (Credit: JAXA)

Noguchi performs a preflight inspection (Credit: JAXA)

From January 15-18 at Kobe Airport, astronaut Noguchi conducted flight training aboard the Hawker Beechcraft Type G58 (Baron), owned by Honda Airways.

This training is intended to maintain and improve the multi-tasking ability which is one of the qualifications required for astronauts. Flight training for Japanese astronauts has been provided using T-38 jet trainers in NASA; domestic training has also started from this Japanese fiscal year.

Before the flight, Noguchi familiarized flying using a flight simulator, as well as receiving lectures on meteorology and flight plans. He also confirmed the procedure for the preflight inspection and actually inspected the plane he uses.

On January 16, astronaut Onishi visited the site to observe training.

Flight training is very effective for building astronauts' fundamental ability because it includes complicated operations while various matters are communicated with the ground.
Training with the plane went very well as I used the same type of plane when I was in Houston.
The plane I operated employed the newest design around the cockpit compared to those I used to board at the time.
I felt that, just as human space development enters the next spaceship stage following the retirement of the space shuttles, the aircraft industry is also shifting to the next era.
I will retain my skill as an astronaut as well as absorbing technological changes, as seen in this aircraft, toward the development of a Japanese original spacecraft.

Astronauts Onishi and Kanai received training for the Japanese Experiment Module, Kibo

Onishi listens to an explanation in Kibo's mockup (Credit: JAXA)

Onishi listens to an explanation in Kibo's mockup (Credit: JAXA)

Astronauts Onishi and Kanai returned to Japan for a while to receive training for the Japanese Experiment Module, Kibo at the Tsukuba Space Center (TKSC). Onishi started this from January 10, followed by Kanai from January 17. They received training until January 24.

Kibo comprises various systems, including the Command and Data Handling (C&DH), a system which monitors and controls the status of all Kibo systems and experiments, the Electrical Power System (EPS), which supplies electric power from the ISS to each piece of hardware, the Communication and Tracking (C&T) system, which transfers data, audio, and video images, the Thermal Control System (TCS), which controls Kibo's hardware temperature, the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), which adjusts Kibo's temperature and humidity as well as circulating air, and an Experiment Support System (ESS) that provides three types of gas. for conducting experiments.

Through lectures and training, Onishi gained a further insight into the operational procedures of these JEM systems. In addition, he also trained for the JEM Airlock operations using a mockup (a full-scale training facility) and learned computer operation of the Caution and Warning (C&W) system, which detects emergencies such as fire, depressurization, toxic spills and system failures.

After Kanai joined Onishi, they underwent training to hone their expertise on Kibo systems. In addition to the training for each system, they also learned how to exchange and repair hardware requiring regular maintenance. Their training included how to address failures of C&DH and EPS systems that may have a considerable impact on Kibo's operation, intending to accumulate and enhance their knowledge to a level where they can accurately grasp the system behavior, assess the impact and decide on the necessary response.

In addition to the training for Kibo, they also learned an overview, the system of the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) KOUNOTORI and actual astronauts' onboard operations.

They had the opportunity to experience ground operation teams' on-site atmosphere. Onishi and Kanai visited the Kibo's Mission Control Room (MCR) to see how a JEM Communicator (J-COM); a person who communicates with the ISS astronauts, works at the console. Further, they also observed KOUNOTORI's Flight Control Team (FCT) perform a joint simulation with NASA.

Astronaut Yui underwent training for the ISS long-duration mission

In the ISS mockup (a full scale training facility), Yui removes a panel on the side of a hatch using a tool. (Credit: JAXA/NASA)

In the ISS mockup (a full scale training facility), Yui removes a panel on the side of a hatch using a tool. (Credit: JAXA/NASA)

From December, 2012, astronaut Yui has finally been receiving training for the upcoming ISS Expedition 44/45 mission at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC).

In January, 2013, Yui acquired common knowledge and operations required to live and work on the ISS, including inventory management and storage policies, how to use the Inventory Management System that manages all goods on the ISS, how to set up racks containing system hardware and experimental equipment, how to open and close hatches between modules, and how to use a wide variety of onboard tools in preparation for hardware maintenance.

Besides that, Yui also confirmed the procedure for assisting in the preparation for crew members performing Extravehicular Activity (EVA), using a vacuum chamber called the Space Station Airlock Test Article (SSATA), the on-ground facility featuring the Quest Joint Airlock function and the ingress and egress path for the U.S. Extravehicular Activity (EVA). In addition, Yui tried on a fit check for the mask to be worn in the case of an ammonia leak on the ISS.

In preparation for the upcoming training in Russia starting from February, Yui learned details of an overview of the Soyuz spacecraft and how to refer operational procedures during the flight.

Astronaut Onishi visits his alma mater elementary school

Onishi speaks to pupils (Credit: JAXA)

Onishi speaks to pupils (Credit: JAXA)

On January 25, Onishi visited his alma mater, Miyamae elementary school in Tokyo, where he lectured pupils on space development.

During the lecture, Onishi introduced the history of space development, the ISS and the Japanese Experiment Module, Kibo, life in space and on-ground training, as well as the distances between the Earth and moon and sun and the size of each of these planets. Finally, he yelled a message to pupils to realize their dreams.

New Astronauts at the Front-Line

In January, I had varied training, partly because this was my birth month. Astronauts have heaps of annual duties, including medical examinations and flight skill checks in their birth months. (In fact, this is why astronauts cannot enjoy them very much, LOL.)

Here, introduced among the annual duties, is simulation training for emergency procedures. The T-38 jet, which is used when giving astronauts flight training, has a procedure manual called Checklist, outlining the procedures which govern its flight. In case any problem occurs on the jet, astronauts should cope with them referring to the manual. The training implemented in January involved astronauts acquiring coping skills for emergencies resulting from diverse problems generated by flight simulation equipment known as Simulators. Actually, this training was far tougher than usual flight training! Though the training itself involves simulated flight, with no risk to life, even if the airplane crashes, it exerts considerable tension on astronauts throughout the entire training! They experience and must handle a succession of the worst situations, monitored by instructors who assess their judgment and operation. In particular, it was taken for granted that I would perform well, based on my previous career as a test pilot, while my odd failure may affect the whole reputation of Japanese pilots and astronauts. (This is true though it may sound an "exaggeration!" to you. Staff working for NASA regard me as a Japanese astronaut and former pilot. Aware of my career, they start a conversation when meeting me for the first time, saying "You are the person who used to work as a test pilot in fighter aircraft for Japan's Air Self-Defense Force, aren't you?")

This is the cockpit of the Simulator. You may think "Resembles a gaming machine - must be fun!" It is fun if only free flight is required. Actually, the flight is very hectic and demanding because astronauts sitting here must cope with emergencies as well as implement normal procedures and closely communicate with the controller.

This is where the instructors sit and manipulate the conditions in the Simulator, causing climate changes and varied emergencies. All the pilot behavior and operation can also be monitored from here. During the training, the instructor also plays the role of air traffic controller.

Why do you think training like this is valued among that provided for astronauts? The skills required for handling situations which occur in such training are quite similar to those required for conducting space activities and coping with emergencies. The work performed by astronauts in space, which has its own procedure manual, is also conducted as stated. Working in space is really similar to on Earth: astronauts work alongside crew members and ground controllers: in case of emergencies, prompt and proper handling of emergencies is crucial to saving their own lives and those of other crew members.

Additionally, careful reflection on this training reveals that a work approach involving a checklist and handling emergencies are applicable to various facets of your daily life and work. When shopping, for example, listing the order of shops to follow and things to buy will facilitate your shopping and help prevent any forgetting to buy goods. Of course, your real life may rarely require such minute preparation, or it may not be absolutely necessary, because it does not matter if you buy something different, and you can return and shop again if something has been forgotten. This list is significant in events where there is no room for error and with the potential for emergencies.

Flights in air and space, where even a mistake in the order or timing of switching may adversely affect the function of machines and endanger the life of those on board, work must be implemented in the order specified in the procedure manual. (You should NOT try to use something after buying it without reading the attached manual. LOL.)

What I would like to stress to you in this column is the need to prepare for handling emergencies. Under such circumstances, promptly coping with the scenario is crucial, despite limited time for those involved to judge matters appropriately, even if they want to handle the situation properly. This is why preparation, such as detailed assumption of possible emergencies and devising means of coping with them in advance, are so desirable when time allows. Noting procedures which you prepare in advance, e.g. against traffic accidents and placed in your car or purse, for example, will definitely help you cope with situations promptly and precisely, even if you should cause an accident and get upset. Additionally, regularly imagining and simulating to yourself possible situations you may encounter will be more effective. In my case, I am scheduled to participate in the ISS mission, which will keep me away from home for six months. Now I have started considering varied measures for emergencies during this period, such as circumstances whereby something may happen to me or my family. Otherwise it may cause innumerable people trouble and also affect my mission.

Despite being a worthwhile vocation offering people hope and fueling their dreams to reach one of the goals in their lives, astronauts mainly work to cope with reality, facing and making provisions against the ultimate reality, including his/her own death, which gives even him/her discomfort.

Of course, I am sure none of you want to imagine undergoing a traffic accident and your own death, but prior mental simulation is sure to help you, I promise.

Now let me return to the topic, the Simulator training for emergencies.

During this training, I sat in the front seat (which is normal for a pilot), unlike my actual spaceflight in 2015. I confess that I was so relieved when I safely landed and stopped the airplane on the runway after a succession of handling emergencies. This successful training has alleviated the risk during my flight training with the T-38! Now you understand that your efforts to make provisions against "What you hope never happens in reality" provide you with real safety! I believe that "awareness of and preparation for covert dangers around you" is absolutely crucial. As I tweeted, we should be aware that the most dangerous situation is one in which a person considers him/herself secured without concrete reasons, which may endanger not only his/her own life but also many others. Additionally, once new latent danger is noticed, it should be widely broadcast so that they can discuss and make provisions against it collectively in advance.

We only live once. How should you approach a life-threatening encounter which you have not prepared for?! You may regret the lack of preparation, which may slash your chances of survival.

I hope you will permit my rather severe topic this time. Since starting to consider my own death, I have been contemplating the meaning of my life and my lifestyle. I do appreciate that my remaining life is limited because, if I were to live forever, I would certainly neither work as hard as today nor be motivated to work for our descendants...

* Photos courtesy of JAXA/NASA

Hello, everyone. With Japan buried in heavy snow and flu, how have you been these days?

I was almost frozen with cold when I returned to Japan with Astronaut Onishi for about a fortnight in January for operational training on the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), known as "Kibo", at the Tsukuba Space Center (TKSC) in Ibaragi pref.

Despite some cold days, Houston, which I currently call home, is a normally temperate region on the Gulf of Mexico. Since moving here in 2009, I seem to have got fully accustomed, both physically and mentally, to the Houston lifestyle.

It was my second training for "Kibo" after the initial round last summer. Following the "Kibo" user qualifications and then those of the next-level operator acquired in the initial training, I returned aiming to go one level higher to the Kibo specialist qualification.

Formerly, during the Space Shuttle era, astronauts were categorized into classes including Captain, Pilot, Mission Specialist (MS), and Payload Specialist (PS). The captain and pilot had to take charge of maneuvers and safe flight of the Space Shuttle, MS professionally manipulated the robotic arm and extravehicular activities (EVA) and PS were in charge of scientific experiments in space.

Today, during this Space Station era, astronauts other than the Commander, who commands the whole team while taking charge of its safety, are all called "flight engineers". Not only is each member capable of manipulating the robotic arm and working in a spacesuit outside the module, each also conducts scientific experiments by communicating with chief scientists on the ground while studying about varied space experiments implemented on board the Space Station.

My explanation seemingly reveals an image of contemporary astronauts as super-professional, combining both Mission Specialist and Payload Specialist skills during the Space Shuttle era, right? Even with training time maximized, it is bound to be difficult for astronauts to fully understand the complex system of the Space Station and study all the scientific experiments scheduled to be conducted on board. Astronauts there share duties according to their specialized assigned fields.

The work on board is assigned like this: Astronaut A specializes in, and takes charge of, the environmental control and power supply systems. Astronaut B is in charge of the heat exhaust, communication, and control computer systems, while Astronaut C takes charge of the Japanese Experiment and European Experiment Modules. Astronauts share experiments scheduled to be implemented on board during their long-duration stay: Astronaut A conducts an experiment while Astronauts B and C collectively conduct another experiment. They prepare for their actual mission with training and preparation according to plan. Regardless of whether missions or space activities, teamwork is always required. This is due to the fact that each crew member on board assumes responsibility for specialized work respectively assigned.

Additionally, the qualifications of User, Operator, and Specialist, which I acquired, precisely define the specialty of astronauts demanded in the current Space Station era.

In terms of the segment provided by Russia in the Space Station referred to as the Russian segment, for example, I was qualified as User after training in Russia last year. Though allowed to live in that segment, I am not allowed to operate the equipment installed inside.

Conversely, in terms of the U.S. segment provided by the U.S., I have Operator qualification acquired after the two-year Basic Training program in Houston, which means I have knowledge and skills for manipulating varied systems (categorized into several, including those for environment control, heat exhaust, posture control, and the computer system controlling the Space Station) "in a steady state with no trouble and disorder" installed in the U.S. segment.

Even when supported by Operator, a long-duration mission also demands skills to modify and repair equipment, in the event of any trouble in space. It is the Specialist who has had training to cope with such unexpected troubles.

As I described above, it takes a very long time for a single astronaut to familiarize him/herself with all systems onboard the Space Station. Each specialist is trained by his/her team members who share and take charge of their assigned specialized fields

Astronaut Yui, selected as a member of the long-duration mission last year, must currently undergo Specialist-level training for several systems, boosting his Operator-level skills and knowledge for all systems in the U.S. segment acquired through the Astronaut Candidate (ASCAN) training.

After being selected as a mission crew member, astronauts have 30 months of training before their spaceflight actually starts. It may look leisurely to many of you, but the reality is quite different. The selected astronauts have hectic days, with training and study scheduled down to the minute for thorough preparation: attaining the required knowledge and skills for their assigned specialized fields, studying about scientific experiments scheduled during their mission, learning how to manipulate the Russian Soyuz Spacecraft used for their round-trip spaceflight to the Space Station...

Besides, Japanese astronauts also have their own prerequisite specialty, the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo" Specialist. Astronauts from the U.S., Europe, and Canada support us and work as Kibo Specialists on board the Space Station while Japanese astronauts are away. Hence Japanese astronauts, despite being equivalent Specialists, should desirably be "Kibo Super Specialist", with far more detailed knowledge.

In case any defect or trouble should occur, the Specialist expounds to the Commander the influences on the whole mission, sometimes communicating with the control center on the ground in his/her place. On the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo", the most intricate system on the Space Station with an Exposed Facility (EF), its unique robotic arm, and Airlock, it is critical that Japanese crew members who fully understand the national module should remain in charge of its operation.

Here finally I reach the topic described in the opening lines of this month's column, "I returned to Japan for training!" My explanation of how astronauts' work is categorized went beyond the given space again.

As previously described, none of us new astronauts can hold our heads before the astute instructors at the Tsukuba Space Center, always smiling and gentle, who ingeniously educate us, sometimes letting us go as we please, sometimes cracking the whip.

When I told experienced American pilots with whom I work in Houston before returning to Japan that I would go to Japan in January, many of them asked me to give their best regards to the instructors at the Tsukuba Space Center because they were really indebted to them during their mission training. It makes me think that even veteran pilots feel so obliged to the instructors that they cannot hold their heads before them after the training.

As well as space development, many other training opportunities are being tested and encountering various difficulties due to their austere budgets. I do hope to introduce part of the creativity, device, passion, and contribution of our Japanese training instructors, which more than makes up the plight. Maybe next time. Now let me introduce to you ...not an advance announcement of next month but some scenes from our training. They are professional instructors, Messrs. Kano and Amanai, explaining the operation procedures to use with their hand-made (!) models.

Mr. Amanai, Training Instructor at the Tsukuba Space Center

Mr. Amanai, Training Instructor at the Tsukuba Space Center

Mr. Kano, Training Instructor at the Tsukuba Space Center

Mr. Kano, Training Instructor at the Tsukuba Space Center

* Credit: JAXA

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