JAXA President Monthly Press Conference January 2021

JAXA President Monthly Press Conference

Speech Abstracts by Hiroshi Yamakawa, President of JAXA
Date and time: From 1:30 - 2:15 p.m. on January 15 (Fri), 2021
Venue: Online
MC: Akiko Suzuki, Director, Public Affairs Department

New Year's Greeting

JAXA sends the new year's greetings to all.

We are still fighting against the COVID-19 infection, but since last year JAXA has been carrying out our work by actively using telework. In response to the government's recent declaration of a second state of emergency, on January 8, I instructed JAXA officials and related personnel to further increase telework. In line with the government's basic policy of reducing the attendance rate by 70%, we will continue to work on thorough measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 infection as our top priority.

Under the circumstances, JAXA has many important projects coming up in 2021. These projects include astronaut Noguchi's activities on the International Space Station (ISS) and his return to the Earth, astronaut Hoshide's long-duration stay on the ISS as commander, and the development of the H3 rocket, which will enter a crucial stage. The development of Advanced Land Observing Satellite "Daichi-3" (ALOS-3), the development of "Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration-2" and its launch by the Epsilon Launch Vehicle are also scheduled.

In addition, since December JAXA has been continuing to conduct detailed cataloging of the samples collected by “Hayabusa2” as the primary curation work. These will be important steps in the initial analysis, which will start in a full-fledged manner from June this year, as well as in the internationally offered research to provide samples to domestic and overseas research institutions. We hope to gain new findings through future analysis.

Through these various efforts, JAXA's executives and staff members are committed to working together to achieve our mission.

FY2021 Unofficial Announcement of Budget

In December last year, the government's draft budget for fiscal year 2021 was finalized. According to the draft, JAXA's main budget is 157.1 billion yen, 14 million yen more than the previous year. Additionally, 57.3 billion yen supplementary budget is funded to JAXA during the current fiscal year, which is 25.6 billion yen increase from the previous year. As a result, the supplementary budget for FY2020 and the main budget for FY2021 and the supplementary budget add up to a total of 214.4 billion yen for FY2021, an increase of 25.6 billion yen from the previous year.

The main items remain unchanged from the budgetary requests: the research and development for participation in the U.S.-proposed international space exploration "Artemis Project;” the development of the H3 Launch Vehicle and its payload, the Advanced Radar Satellite (ALOS-4); and the promotion of research and development of next-generation aeronautical science and technology. The government also allocated necessary budget for new projects, including the “Hayabusa2” extended mission, the research and development program for future space transportation system, and the research and development program for small technology innovation satellite.

In addition, the government's overall space budget increased to 449.6 billion yen, the largest of its kind. Under the recent severe financial situation, the government increased space budget. This has a sobering effect on us because we take it as a strong message of high expectation from the public, the national government, local governments, industries including start-up companies, and researchers in the field of academic research. We would like to reaffirm our roles and responsibilities and carry out our projects in order to meet such expectations.

Status of Astronaut Noguchi's ISS Activities and Recruitment of New Astronauts

Astronaut Noguchi has been on the ISS for two months now, and is smoothly carrying out his mission including various experiments on the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo" and ISS maintenance.

In particular, since December, he has been using Kibo to conduct experiments on three-dimensional culture using iPS cells, which will lead to regenerative medicine. Since December 8, Astronaut Noguchi has been attaching experimental samples to the experimental devices, cultivating cells, and preparing for microscopic observation to check the condition of the samples. The samples for which experiments had been completed were returned to the Earth by the Dragon supply ship on January 14. Researchers will analyze them from now on. In this experiment, we aim at organogenesis by creating a three-dimensional organ with large blood vessels using a cell mass derived from iPS cells. In other words, the organogenesis represents large blood vessels, not capillaries, and we understand that by using this technology, we can expect to create large organs and organs that are more similar to living organisms. This is the world's first space experiment aimed at creating a three-dimensional organ with large blood vessels.

As for the recruitment of new astronauts this fall, we have received a lot of responses since the announcement last year, which makes us realize that people are expecting a lot from us. As space exploration activities expand through international cooperation such as participation in the ARTEMIS program, etc., the realm of human activity will also expand. As we enter the era of international space exploration, it is necessary to diversify the application requirements, in other words, the abilities and skills required for astronauts, which have been considered only by space agencies.

For this reason, prior to the recruitment of new astronauts, JAXA would like to receive useful information such as ideas and know-how on the selection process and basic training from the private sector. We will announce details in the form of an RFI (Request for Information) next week. At the same time, we are planning to hold an online briefing session at the end of the month. In addition, we will be soliciting public comments from the general public on the application conditions. We are looking forward to receiving information and opinions from not only those who aspire to become astronauts but also many others.

Conclusion of “Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Cooperation in Global Satellite Observation” with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

On December 11 last year, we signed a “Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Cooperation in Global Satellite Observation” with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA is one of the agencies of the U.S. Department of Commerce that specializes in research and study of the ocean and atmosphere, and operates various Earth-observing satellites of the U.S.

JAXA and NOAA have been building a good cooperative relationship since the launch of JAXA's Global Change Observation Mission 1st - Water "SHIZUKU" (GCOM-W1) in 2012.

In order to efficiently and quickly receive the global observation data acquired by the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 (AMSR2) onboard the “SHIZUKU,” we are transmitting data directly to NOAA's receiving stations in the U.S. in real time, and also receiving support fromNOAA for ground stations located athigh latitudes that can receive data frequently. We are also engaged in activities such as mutual calibration and verification between JAXA's AMSR2 data and the data acquired by NOAA's environmental observation satellite “JPSS-1.”

With the conclusion of the MOU this time, we will expand the scope of our cooperation in the next-generation Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR3), which will be installed on the Global Observing SATellite for Greenhouse gases and Water cycle (GOSAT-GW). GOSAT-GW is currently under joint development by the Ministry of the Environment, the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), and JAXA for launch in fiscal year 2023. With the MOU, JAXA will further continue and expand its nearly 20-year partnership with NOAA.

The microwave radiometer is a sensor that can observe physical quantities related to water on the ground surface, at the sea surface, and in clouds by penetrating the clouds. The data acquired by the sensor is expected to be used for various applications, such as understanding water cycle changes caused by climate change, and predicting the impact on social life and taking countermeasures. For example, NOAA is currently using JAXA's AMSR2 data to improve the accuracy of hurricane forecast and enhance its ability to monitor climate change through the observation sea surface temperature and sea ice.

JAXA will continue to contribute to the efficient and coordinated monitoring of the global environment in cooperation with our international partners.

Japan-U.S. Aerospace Cooperation Seminar

As announced by the government the day before yesterday (January 13), "Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Japan and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States of America Concerning Cooperation on the Civil Lunar Gateway” was signed by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the United States of America Sugiyama and NASA Administrator Bridenstine.

The memorandum of understanding signed this time is a legal framework that enables the cooperation on the Gateway, which was confirmed between Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Hagiuda and NASA Administrator Bridenstine in July last year, such as Japan's provision of equipment to the habitation module of the “Gateway,” a manned lunar orbital platform, and NASA's provision of opportunities for Japanese astronauts to board the Gateway. JAXA, as the implementing agency, will make further and steady efforts to promote international space exploration in accordance with the government policy and the content of the agreement.

Taking advantage of this opportunity, JAXA and the Embassy of Japan in the United States of America will co-host the "Japan-U.S. Aerospace Cooperation Seminar 2021" online. The subtitle of this seminar is "The Artemis Generation is Upon Us.” Ambassador Sugiyama, Minister of State for Space Policy Inoue, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Hagiuda, and NASA Associate Administrator Jurczyk will deliver remarks on future prospect and expectation, and I myself will give a presentation on the current status and future of the JAXA program.

The seminar will start 1 a.m. midnight tomorrow in Japan time. This year's event will be held online, and I hope you will watch it.