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JAXA Astronaut Activity Report

JAXA Astronaut Activity Report, May, 2012

Last Updated: July 23, 2012

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

Astronaut Hoshide's training for the ISS Expedition mission

Hoshide simulating SSRMS operation (Photo courtesy of JAXA/NASA)

Hoshide simulating SSRMS operation (Photo courtesy of JAXA/NASA)

Astronaut Hoshide, assigned as a crew member for the International Space Station (ISS) on Expeditions 32/33, is making final preparations for the upcoming long-duration mission on the ISS.

During early to mid-May, Hoshide completed his final training at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC). He then headed to the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) of the European Space Agency (ESA) in Germany for final training on ESA's experiments and equipment.

At the JSC, Hoshide trained for Extravehicular Activity (EVA) in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) and on manipulation using the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) simulator. In addition, he reviewed the systems onboard the ISS, how to respond to anomalies related to the Electrical Power System (EPS), and how to use and maintain the Crew Health Care System (CHeCS) that determines the presence of gas and microorganisms, water quality, noise, and radiation levels. He also reviewed the Water Recovery System (WRS) that provides crew members with drinking water.

Other than the series of training described above, Hoshide attended a meeting regarding the onboard experiments planned during his mission on the ISS, and obtained his personal medical data for a comparison of health status on the ground and in orbit to determine any bodily changes.

At the EAC, Hoshide reviewed experiment procedures and obtained data for ESA's medical experiments. He received training on the maintenance of onboard hardware in ESA's Columbus module. Hoshide and the ground controllers for Columbus held a meeting and deepened their dialogue to ensure smooth onboard communication.

As ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is scheduled to undock from the ISS while Hoshide is aboard the ISS, he confirmed the crew tasks during undocking.

Astronaut Kanai trains in Russia for the Soyuz spacecraft

In mid-May, Astronaut Kanai received training on the Soyuz spacecraft at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Russia.

While viewing information displayed on a motion control panel and by the navigation system in the Soyuz descent module simulator, Kanai confirmed the procedures for the Soyuz spacecraft's automatic rendezvous and docking with the ISS, its undocking from the ISS, and subsequent reentry into the atmosphere.

Kanai also studied the life support, communication, and TV systems of the Soyuz spacecraft.

Astronaut Wakata visits Kyushu to deliver lectures

Wakata speaking at Kyushu University (Photo courtesy of JAXA)

Wakata speaking at Kyushu University (Photo courtesy of JAXA)

Astronaut Wakata returned to Japan in mid-May and visited many places, including Kyushu University in Fukuoka Prefecture, Sojo University in Kumamoto Prefecture, and Hita high school in Oita Prefecture.

Wakata participated in the centennial ceremony at his alma mater of Kyushu University that celebrated its 100th anniversary, and where he delivered a lecture entitled, "Dreams and Space: Expectations for the University."

In his lecture, Wakata introduced the history of space development, comparing the chronology of Kyushu University with that of the world's space development. He reminisced about his college life, mentioning that what he encountered and learned in school are helpful in developing his career as an astronaut. Wakata concluded the lecture by describing his expectations for the University, his own aspirations, and his vision of future space development.

New Astronauts at the Front-Line

Notice: We apologize that no article of Astronaut Kimiya Yui appears in this issue because he has been active in the NEEMO training.

Hi, everyone!

A month has passed since the last report. How time flies, almost unnoticed! I often feel aging has the effect of accelerating everything that is happening around us. Do you agree? Is that my illusion?

A friend of mine said to me one day: "A child of five years may see the coming year as a long period as this length of time corresponds to one fifth of the entire period he/she has ever lived. It is a considerable percentage."

If his argument is correct, the rate at which time passes subsequently will seem to accelerate...

Anyway, recently, I have been increasingly convinced that every day should be lived like an unrepeatable opportunity.

In the last report, I wrote something about maneuver training on the T-38 jet, although there was insufficient space for my description. I will now continue the interrupted portion, focusing on my in-flight experience.

The T-38 training jet can fly at ultrasonic speed if the onboard pilot wishes. However, since the cost of travel at such speed would far exceed the budget, normal training missions are limited to about 80 % of sonic velocity, roughly 850 km/h depending on altitude.

The fuel tank is full at the beginning of a training mission. Even with the tank full, the training duration must be limited to ninety minutes to allow a portion of reserve fuel to be retained for unexpected emergencies. With the limited "extra" fuel, the trainee must check the current weather at the destination. Frequent checking means the pilot will have more options available, even if the actual weather conditions subsequently decline to a greater-than-expected extent.

During NEEMO training in which I once participated, like Astronaut Yui, my knowledge of meteorological charts was very useful for me. The above photo shows the meteorological conditions of an eastern area of the U.S. during the NEEMO 15 mission, on October 26, 2011.

During ordinary training flight missions, the trainee flies toward an airfield one hour or one and a half hours away, where he/she lands and takes off if the remaining fuel permits.

It takes up to one hour to refuel the aircraft and ensure it is ready for takeoff and return to base.

In the mission that day, the cumulative flight duration over a total of 4 sections exceeded 5 hours. It was dusk when I returned to the Ellington Field.

Before I became an astronaut, I was working as a passenger aircraft pilot. There are several differences between the T-38 and the airplanes I used to maneuver, primarily the fact that only pilots are on the training aircraft.

This is a significant difference and means it doesn't matter if the aircraft shakes or undergoes rough maneuvers since no passenger will complain. A passenger aircraft carries hundreds of customers. Food and hot drink are served frequently and passengers may walk around to have access to toilets. Any "jerking" movement of a passenger aircraft without warning may result in severe injuries or burns. Pilots on passenger aircraft are very careful to ensure smooth flight. Pilots on board a T-38 feel much more relaxed, and less concerned about comfort.

Flight on a T-38 has other challenges, primarily the lack of any autopilot, which is provided on passenger aircraft and which allows them to be maneuvered automatically for everything except takeoff, which means passenger aircraft pilots can take more care of many other things. The non-automated T-38 must be constantly maneuvered with the control rod alone for about 90 minutes, with the pilot remaining on alert for any slight change of attitude, in order to maintain the required course and altitude.

Besides, the T-38 pilot has many things to do other than aircraft maneuvering and weather checking: checking the aircraft's current location on the map, operating a number of devices, reading charts and maps, and communicating with the control authority. It is hectic immediately after takeoff and during landing.

Accomplishing various operations on an aircraft was a learning experience, as I wished to become an astronaut. This kind of work is referred to as "multi-tasking", requiring qualifications similar to those required by an astronaut. Experience as a jet pilot is useful for tasks in the International Space Station, e.g. manipulating the robot arms.

The T-38 is a two-seater jet, in which multi-tasking can be divided between two pilots onboard: one maneuvering the aircraft and the other performing other operations. When all the tasks are divided, the educational effect of multi-tasking may be reduced. However, this division of tasks creates a new aspect of "coordination" or "teamwork" toward a complete set of tasks. Task division will also reduce the stresses and fatigue each pilot suffers.

Personally, I usually assume all the tasks during the first two sections of flight except for takeoff and landing, while for further sections, the partner pilot on the front seat assumes part of the tasks. I have found this method helps me retain sufficient concentration for safe flight.

I have discussed relatively general matters, basically because I encountered nothing out of the ordinary during flight training in April and completed it successfully and peacefully. Should any failure occur in one of the devices in-flight, that would be a good reason to report it here in an article. That concludes the article for now on T-38 flight training.

Thanks a lot for reading.

I have just returned from Russia. In this second article of the series, I will discuss my experience as a fresh astronaut in Star City in Russia, having received several training sessions worldwide.

Star City, on the outskirts of Moscow, houses the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonauts' Training Center (GCTC) where not only Russian cosmonauts but also astronauts from the U.S., Europe, Canada and Japan are being trained.

This training facility is named after Yuri Gagarin, the first human to fly in space 51 years ago. At first glance, the Star City area resembles a small rural town. Several renowned professors at the GCTC, which has been spearheading global manned space development, are eyewitnesses to what took place during the USSR era. They provide the younger generations of cosmonauts and astronauts with precious knowledge and skills, harboring unceasing ambition.

The latest training I received was focused on the systems on board Soyuz spacecraft. The U.S. Space Shuttle program has recently been completed, and the Russian spacecraft represent the only means of travel between the Earth and the International Space Station. Accordingly, astronauts and cosmonauts set to work in the ISS must undergo training for the Soyuz spacecraft.

Young astronauts and cosmonauts who have not been trained for the Space Shuttle have a rare opportunity to "maneuver spacecraft" during the training.


I once imagined a world in which every country committed to space development should have its own manned spacecraft to make space more accessible to humans. Recently, a U.S.-based private company succeeded in docking a spacecraft with the ISS to deliver cargo. Several years from now, spacecraft other than the Soyuz will be able to make return trips to the ISS to transport more astronauts and cosmonauts between the latter and Earth.

Back to the study on the Soyuz spacecraft for the time being.

All lectures here in Star City are given in Russian. I only started to learn the language one year ago. I already have the ability to exchange greetings and introduce myself in Russian, but the level is not yet sufficient to understand lectures in Russian. Currently, I need an English interpreter in-between during lectures.

One day, an American astronaut asked me: "How do you handle Russian, English and Japanese in your brain?" I often let original terms in one language flow into my brain without translating into Japanese to grasp information more quickly. Some of the English and Russian terms are more familiar to me; probably because I underwent space station training for two years in the U.S.

During the initial stages of my U.S. training, however, phrases such as "the systems have a certain redundancy, and if one of the two power supply systems is shut down" and "orbit-dynamically performing two jets of the main engine at ** m/s" embarrassed me, who had worked as a medical doctor till then.

In Star City, learning and co-habiting with "active" astronauts and cosmonauts who will soon be launched into space was quite impressive for me.

When I was sent to Houston, the other trainees lived with their family members in their own residences nearby and met me only in the workplace and during training sessions. Trainees here in Star City have to co-habit in a single accommodation facility, away from their families. They often cooperate for cooking. I sometimes felt as if I were among students in a training camp.

Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who will commence a long stay on the ISS in July, has recently arrived in Star City with one of his crewmates, Sunita Williams, and has started final training before the launch. By coincidence, astronaut Koichi Wakata, who will fly next year, is also being trained here, which makes it a little crowded for now.

If Russia is a "remote" country in terms of culture, my impression is that the training facility was very friendly and conscientious to us foreigners. That is probably because they have long accepted cosmonauts from Eastern European countries.

I roughly recollect Japanese astronauts: Mr. Toyohiro Akiyama, who was the first Japanese to stay on the Mir Space Station, and Messrs. Soichi Noguchi and Satoshi Furukawa... Increasing numbers of Japanese astronauts have come to the Russian training site.

If countries on Earth were compared to members of a large "Space Family," Russia and the U.S. would be elder brothers or sisters to the other countries.

Japan would be one of their young siblings. In the two decades that have elapsed since astronaut Mamoru Mori's flight on a Space Shuttle, the country has grown up as a younger member capable of performing certain tasks on its own.

I do not know if I will be allowed some day to be a crew member in a Soyuz spacecraft, but I always wish to assimilate everything I learn in Star City.

My primary hope is to use the knowledge and skills acquired here for future domestic manned space activities, which is my duty. At the same time, I would be glad if I could contribute to international space development activities as in familial relations.

Photo credit: JAXA/GCTC

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