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JAXA Astronaut Activity Report

JAXA Astronaut Activity Report, December, 2013

Last Updated: March 14, 2014

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

Astronaut Kimiya Yui undergoes training for a long-duration ISS mission

Astronaut Kimiya Yui, who was assigned as a crew member for the Expedition 44/45 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) underwent training for a long-duration mission at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC).

click to enlarge the photo

Yui putting on training EMU (Credit: JAXA/NASA)

In the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL), Yui wore a spacesuit designed specially for the training and dived into a pool containing a submerged full-scale ISS mockup simulating Extravehicular Activity (EVA) to practice maintenance operations for exposed equipment installed on the exterior of the ISS.

Yui also underwent training in preparation for emergencies that might occur on the ISS. Yui checked procedures for responding to sudden onboard depressurization due to air leaks, fire or ammonia leaks. Ammonia is used as a coolant for the ISS Thermal Control System (TCS).

In addition, he learned medical-checkup and first-aid procedures required for Crew Medical Officers (CMO). The CMO is responsible for monitoring his/her crewmates' health, and in case of illness or injury, the CMO gives first aid to his/her crewmate under the instructions of the Flight Surgeon (FS) on the ground.

Astronaut Yui was also trained on the ISS Electrical Power System (EPS) and the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS).

Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide supports US EVAs as CAPCOM

Hoshide sitting at the CAPCOM console for the December 21 US EVA

Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide served as CAPCOM at the NASA Mission Control Center (MCC) for two US EVAs performed on December 21 and 24, to respond to irregularities that occurred in the ISS External Thermal Control System (ETCS).

Wakata operating SSRMS during an EVA (Credit: JAXA/NASA)

The EVAs were conducted to remove and replace a failed pump module on the station's ETCS.

Hoshide made a huge contribution to the success of the EVAs facilitating communication between the NASA flight controllers on the ground with the crew onboard the ISS as the go-between connecting the ground and the orbit.

In orbit, Astronaut Koichi Wakata was responsible for SSRMS operations during the EVAs. Wakata supported the EVAs by transporting EVA crew members on the tip of the SSRMS.

Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa attends the 20th Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF)

From December 3-6, Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa attended the 20th Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF) held in Hanoi, Vietnam.

At the forum, space agencies, government institutions, space utilization organizations, researchers and people with links to universities, etc. in Asia-Pacific region gathered and had energetic discussions on the theme of "Values From Space: 20 Years of Asia-Pacific Experiences."

At the meeting of the Space Environment Utilization Working Group (SEU WG), Furukawa delivered a lecture on the space medical research, etc. that he performed while he was on the ISS. He was also the chair at a session entitled "Values from ISS" which introduced cooperation between JAXA and Vietnam including small satellite (CubeSat) deployment of "PicoDragon" from the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo" and Protein Crystal Growth experiment performed on "Kibo." At the beginning of the session, a video message of Astronaut Koichi Wakata, who released PicoDragon from Kibo, was played.

Astronaut Soichi Noguchi gives a lecture at Nagasaki University

Noguchi giving his lecture (Credit: JAXA/Nagasaki University)

Noguchi giving his lecture (Credit: JAXA/Nagasaki University)

On December 15, Astronaut Soichi Noguchi was invited to give a lecture as part of the lecture series hosted by Nagasaki University through 2013. Noguchi discussed the theme of the features of Japanese manned space activities, its risks and ramifications to an audience of 600 people, comprising mostly students of Nagasaki University and junior and high school students from Nagasaki City.

During the lecture, Noguchi introduced activities on the ISS using images. He reminisced about his experiences and encouraged the students, saying "I’d like you to think about your futures with a broad perspective."

During the Q&A session at the end, Noguchi answered a question from a student from Nagasaki University.

Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa gives a lecture at the 50th anniversary event of the City of Kitakyushu

Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa was invited to an event held at “Space World” commemorating the 50th anniversary of the City of Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, to give a lecture to 500 local elementary and junior-high school students.

Using images and videos, Furukawa introduced his experiences and activities on the ISS. Finally, he encouraged the students to realize their dreams.


New Astronauts at the Front-Line

Hello everyone. Thank you for keeping me company on Twitter the other day when I was waiting at the airport! Thanks to you all, my five-hour wait was very interesting! I hope we will have a chance to do that again in the future.

Well, in December, I had a longish holiday during which I had time to think about various things. I also had time to look back and reflect on my life. Today, I would like to talk about one of my experiences as I look back over my past. (I don’t know if it will be of much use to you but you will at least understand that I am not perfect.)

To be frank, I had various ups and downs before I became a test pilot for the Self-Defense Force. Life is strange as these all ended up being important in order for me to become an astronaut. The reason I went on to study at the National Defense Academy in the first place was not because I wanted to be a pilot or because I was aware of the importance of national defense. The real reason was that this was the only way that I could continue to with the studies that I loved so much and because of this, I had to give up my dreams of being an astronomer or an astronaut so it was an extremely hard decision for me to make at that time...

In this situation, I was fortunate enough to have been able to meet the requirements for becoming a pilot in the flight medical and psychological aptitude tests during my first year at the National Defense Academy. When I found out about this, I felt that it would be cool to become a pilot if I could so I started to show my interest in this. On the other hand, if I was going to be lucky enough to become a pilot, I wanted to fly cool fighter aircraft and, for this reason, I came to think that I wanted to join the Air Self-Defense Force.

However, there was absolutely no guarantee that I would be able to get into the Air Self-Defense Force. (In actual fact, when you start at the National Defense Academy, you are not assigned to one Self-Defense Force or another. This is decided in the 2nd year according to aptitude, the personnel required by each Self-Defense Force and the wishes of the person in question.) At any rate, there were many students who wanted to go on to be in the Air Self-Defense Force but it was the luck of the draw if they got their first choice. At that time, I heard rumors from older students that if you stood out in the 1st year class, you would definitely get your first choice. What was interesting about this rumor was that it was said that it didn’t matter if your results were the best in the class or the worst in the class.

When I looked into this further, it seemed like it was highly credible! 1st years at the National Defense Academy have, in a many different senses, a difficult time and they are busy but I really studied hard! (Lights out was at a set time but students who wanted to study more had to get permission and were allowed to study until midnight. I asked for permission to continue to study almost every day.)

I managed to become a member of the aviation personnel (a student who will join the Air Self-Defense Force in the future) and I had many different opportunities to participate in training. During the training in the summer of my 3rd year, a significant incident (?) occurred. The aim of this training was to fully understand the work of the Air Self-Defense Force and there was a training session with the fighter aircraft unit. At that time, we had the experience of boarding a small jet. I couldn’t tolerate the high g-forces and sadly, I fainted! I got off the plane with an ashen face... (If we suppose that the strength of gravity on the earth is 1g, this shows the greatness of the acceleration. For example, 2g is double the strength of gravity so your weight is also double. When you experience high g-forces, the blood in your body flows towards your feet and less blood flows to your brain. You lose consciousness if your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen by using special breathing methods or straining your body, etc.)

Consequently, I completely lost my confidence and began to look for another career path that did not involve being a pilot. I thought that I would like to study the sky so I started to work towards becoming an Air Self-Defense Force weather forecaster. I graduated from the National Defense Academy and went on to the Officer Candidate School of the Air Self-Defense Force. When I graduated from this school, there would be a final decision on my future job. When I took my final flight medical and was confirmed to have the physical aptitude to become a pilot, I wrote “weather” as my first choice rather than “pilot” and handed in my documents.

A few days later, my instructor called me in to his office.

Instructor: Why do you not want to be a pilot when you have the aptitude to be one?

I explained the story up to that point.

Instructor: Even though you have the opportunity, you are going to give up on it? That’s not the right thing to do! You have no idea whether you will really be able to become a pilot or not! You will still have the opportunity to choose weather if you don’t make pilot but your only chance to become a pilot is now!

I listened to him and thought it through carefully, then changed what I had written on my documents. I made a resolution to step up to the start line of the long, hard training to become a pilot by changing my first choice to “pilot”!

So, those of us who had chosen to work towards being pilots went on to the pilot training course! We start with training sessions other than those for flying. One of these was g-force resistance training. The training sessions are held in a capsule that artificially creates high g-forces using centrifugal force but, sadly, I fainted again during that training... I felt like I had failed at the first hurdle on the way to becoming a pilot...

Then, right after that training, the students, who were soon to be undergoing flight training, had the opportunity to be instructed by a very high up officer.

Officer: Is there anyone here who wants to be something other than a fighter pilot?

Three people, including myself, raised their hands. (Since I was unable to resist g-forces and kept passing out, I had been thinking about maybe working on transporters as they had nothing to do with high g-forces. And, more than that, ferrying people and equipment about was an important job!)

Officer: You three who put your hands up just now! I will not allow you to say that anymore! You must aim to be fighter pilots!

Me: (hmmm, this is going to be more difficult than I thought...)

From that moment onwards, I always wrote my first choice as “fighter pilot” on all documents.

Actual flight training started after that. I will tell you about that in more detail another time.

The training was hard and some of our fellow students did not make it and had to select a different career path...

The next big life choice was whether to take the course in which all education to become a pilot was conducted in Japan or the course of which a part was taught in the US. This decision is made after more than a year of continuous pilot training (this is how it was in my day ? it is a little different now). I chose the training in Japan and wrote this on my documents. I had two reasons for this.

1. I would become a pilot more quickly on the Japanese course as I wouldn’t have to study English.
2. If you took the overseas course, you had to go on to the fighter pilot course after you graduated.

On paper, my first choice was fighter pilot but, to be honest, in my heart, I still wanted to be a transporter pilot.

Finally, the day of the announcements for the Japanese and US groups came!

And I was faced with an unbelievable situation.

Instructor: Here are the names of those who will be in the US group. XX, YY, Yui! ? ...

Me: (What? It must be a mistake!)

After the announcement, I went straight to check with the instructor.

Me: Excuse me... I thought I had put down that I wanted to be in the Japanese group...

Instructor: Yes! Sorry! I re-wrote your form!

Me: (speechless)

Instructor: Don’t worry! You’ll be fine!

Me: (What are you basing that on?)

When I think about the fact that, up until then, I couldn’t speak English and that I encountered that film that would change my life in the US, the decision of this instructor has huge significance in my becoming an astronaut, although I had no way of knowing this at that time... (to be continued)

I hope you understood the extent of my indecisiveness. In part 2, I start to change!

写真

This is me when I was worrying about my career path... over 20 years ago.

*Photo: JAXA


It is now 2014. My training for the Expedition 48/49 long-duration mission to the ISS in 2016 has begun. In addition, the outline of my training schedule over the next two and a half years has been decided. According to this schedule, I will be going to Russia for training 5 times this year and will spend a total of six months there. That’s half a year!

I have heard that the Soyuz spacecraft training is very challenging but I am already looking forward to finding out what kind of lifestyle is in store for me.

In last month’s column, I wrote about the breakdown of the external cooling system on the International Space Station and the extravehicular activities involved in this. First of all, in the end, there were two external excursions and two American astronauts were able to replace the cooling system pump without problem and now the system is back to working normally. Of course, Astronaut Wakata’s support of the extravehicular activities with his specialist robot arm operation can be said to have been a contributing factor in that fact that there were no major problems and that it was completed in less time than the originally planned three extravehicular activities.

If we can, in the future, bring the broken pump back to earth, we should be able to find out in detail the cause of the failure and this should leverage the development of future space systems.

Anyway, this month’s topic also begins with extravehicular activities.

The other day, I went to see a film which is showing here at the moment. It is a film about space that depicts the story of astronauts who experience an accident while they are conducting extravehicular activities. In this film, there is a scene in which an astronaut uses the small-scale propulsion equipment that is incorporated in his extravehicular activity suit to move around freely in space. As I was watching this scene, I thought, ‘Huh, is this is what ordinary people think extravehicular activity is like.’

So, this time, I would like to give you some information about the lifelines that astronauts use when they are conducting extravehicular activities on the Space Station.

First of all, why is a lifeline necessary in the first place? The ISS is flying in near zero gravity so if astronauts were to conduct extravehicular activities without a lifeline and they were separated from the ISS for just a moment, they would gradually get further and further away from the ISS.

This is really terrifying.

If this happens and things don’t go well, well, in fact, it is almost certain that the astronaut will never be able to return to the ISS and they will become an astronomical object orbiting the earth and before long, they will start to lose altitude due to atmospheric drag (it is very thin, but there is an atmosphere) and will plunge into the atmosphere and burn up in a fleeting moment...

I am sure you understand the reason why lifelines are so important to an astronaut doing extravehicular activities.

In actual fact, the small-scale propulsion equipment shown in the film is currently installed in the US-made space suits that are used on the ISS. The name of the device is SAFER. However, there is only a limited amount of the propulsion gas so moving around freely could not be further from the truth.

I have been trained in how to use this SAFER in a virtual reality simulator and it was pretty difficult. I had to use SAFER to move in the direction of the ISS which was moving far away. I had to properly aim for the point I wanted to return to but you only have two chances at most because of the amount of gas that is in the device.

Therefore, this SAFER is simply a last ray of hope and certainly not something that you would like to rely on for your life.

The lifeline is a different thing altogether.

This lifeline is called a Safety Tether in the industry.

This Safety Tether is pretty simple.

*Photo: JAXA/NASA

写真

The hook at the bottom of the photo attaches to the space suit. The other hook is attached to handles or fixed points on the ISS. The grey part in the middle of the photo with the “29” label on it is a reel and it holds a strong wire. As astronauts move around, this wire reels out smoothly. So, in the unlikely event that an astronaut lets go and is thrown out into space, the reel automatically reels the wire in and the astronaut can return to the place where the hook was originally attached.

It's pretty simple, isn't it?

When an astronaut begins an extravehicular activity, the first thing they do when they come out of the air lock is to hook the Safety Tether into the nearest hole. It must be remembered that the Safety Tether itself is no more than a back-up and that astronauts must always have a hold on the ISS with one hand and when they need to use both hands for something else, they must use a different tether. This tether is around 1.5m long and does not have a reel.

Attaching this tether to a nearby handle when you are working is called Local Tether in the industry. We astronauts do usually do extravehicular activity training in a huge pool which is 60m long and 30m wide but, during this training, our instructors said time and time again not to forget to attach the Local Tether as soon as we arrived at the point at which we were going to work.

So then if you forget to attach the Local Tether and let go with both hands, the Safety Tether will save you and, in the unlikely event that the Safety Tether breaks and the astronaut is thrown out into space, the above-mentioned SAFER comes into play.

It may be difficult for ordinary people to imagine what kind of work we actually do when we say extravehicular activity but I would be happy if I have managed to explain a part of it in this column.

The word tether comes up quite frequently when you watch the live streaming of actual extravehicular activities on NASA TV so, if you are interested, it is definitely worth watching one of these streaming events.

I have a digression, or rather, some publicity to end with. Have you been watching the short video clips called “Wakata Weekly” that Astronaut Wakata has been posting frequently on YouTube?

There are many situations in which you would not normally see Astronaut Wakata such as him not wearing his trousers when he sleeps in his sleeping bag! The contents of the clips are both extremely interested and good fun. I recommend watching it.

photo

Just after New Year, the customary annual Safety Stand Down Day was held at Ellington Airport. During the almost three-week Christmas/New Year holiday, T-38 flight training is suspended so in order to re-start the training, this day is held so that we all think anew about safety.
The photo shows a quiz about the T-38 system pitching the astronauts and the instructors in teams against each other. There were some really obscure questions. It’s at times like this that newbies and veterans revert to being kids, both enjoying and worrying about the progress of the game.


We are now in a new year! I hope this finds you all well.

At the end of last year, there was a failure in the external cooling system, an important device on the International Space Station but all its functions were recovered through the extravehicular activities of the crew in orbit. Astronaut Wakata was in the news in Japan for having helped by operating the robot arm, his speciality.

On the other hand, there may not have been much focus on this in Japan but it was 2 American members of the crew who wore the spacesuits and worked outside the Space Station. To tell you the truth, one of them was Astronaut Mike Hopkins who was chosen as an astronaut candidate in 2009 and who was one of my classmates during two years of candidate training.

photo

A total of 14 people (9 Americans, 2 Canadians and 3 Japanese) participated in astronaut candidate (abbreviated to Ascan) training conducted at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Astronaut Hopkins was the first in the class to be assigned to a mission and has been on the ISS for 3 months longer than Astronaut Wakata.

We were all very excited when we saw the launch of our first classmate but it was a really special experience (as a classmate) watching him completing his first extravehicular activity.

Incidentally, the European Space Agency (ESA) also recruited six new astronauts in 2009. They are also our classmates as they have been training at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany on the same kind of curriculum as that of NASA.

Astronaut Luca Parmitano, who came safely back to earth when Astronaut Wakata replaced him, is from Italy. He was the first astronaut from the 2009 selection to go into and return from space.

Oddly enough, Astronaut Parmitano also participated in extravehicular activity when he was on the Space Station but you may have seen on the news that he had a hard time of it with water getting into his helmet while he was working... I am also looking forward to the future launches of Astronaut Yui in 2015 and Astronaut Onishi in 2016 from JAXA.

I am also looking forward to the future launches of Astronaut Yui in 2015 and Astronaut Onishi in 2016 from JAXA.

But when I look at the 2009 class overall, it is not only the two JAXA astronauts who are scheduled to go on missions.

Astronauts Reid Wiseman (US) and Alexander Gerst (Germany) are due to launch in the summer of this year (2014) to replace Astronaut Wakata.

The next substitution is in the winter of 2014 with Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti (Italy).

Then, the next replacements will be Astronaut Yui and his classmate, Kjell Lindgren (US), who will launch on the Soyuz 43S in the summer of 2015.

It should be noted that while these two are on their long-duration mission on the Space Station, Astronaut Andreas Mogensen (Denmark) will be doing a space flight on a short-duration mission.

Timothy Peake (UK) will replace Astronauts Yui and Lindgren on a long-duration mission to the Space Station in the winter of 2015.

And then Astronaut Onishi’s mission starts in the summer of 2016 to replace Astronaut Peake.

When you look at this list, my classmates are going to alternately participate in space missions from 2013 to 2016. When you count them up, there is a total of 10 people (including those who have already completed missions).

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that this is the era of the 2009 class.

Once you have been assigned to a mission, a busy, minute-to-minute two and a half year training schedule is waiting for you up until your launch. There is no time to be doing anything superfluous if you don’t give clear priority of what is required or not required for your mission.

When I look at it like that, for me, who has not yet been assigned to a mission, I feel that the kind of preparation that you do for your future mission is very important.

You tend to think that you have plenty of time but there is no time to take things slowly when you take into account the fact that your classmates are all going off into space.

A close expression in English to the Japanese ‘the whole year’s plans should be made on New Year’s Day’ is ‘Have you made your New Year’s resolutions?’ People usually ask you this at the beginning of the year.

My resolution for this year is to find out how I can make meaningful use of the time I have before I am assigned to a mission.

*Photo: JAXA/NASA


 
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