The information on this page was published in the past, thus it may be different from the current status.
To check the date of issuance, please refer to the following URL for the list of interviews, or for the list of special articles.

I was impressed by the philosophy lying underneath the training program.

I was impressed by the philosophy lying underneath the training program.
Three Japanese, namely Toyohiro Akiyama and Ryoko Kikuchi of Tokyo Broadcasting System, Inc. (at the time) and JAXA Astronaut Soichi Noguchi, used to take a four-week short training program in Russia. However, three of us, Astronauts Hoshide, Yamazaki, and myself, were the first Japanese to go through full-scale training, including operation of the Soyuz spacecraft.

It was a precious experience for me to learn the philosophical differences existing behind the training programs between the U.S. and Russia. Generally speaking, it is said that Russian training is "skill oriented" while NASA's one is "task oriented".

NASA expects astronauts to acquire "assurance" or "certainty" to perform an appropriate task in each situation. The emphasis is more on the ability to manage a certain situation in cooperation with a ground station during training programs with many hypothetical cases.

On the other hand, Russia places greater importance on skills or knowledge, the power of understanding, or judgment by an individual cosmonaut. The background of this difference is as follows.

Soyuz orbits the earth in 90 minutes, but communication with Earth is basically available only when it flies over an area of Russia. It is maximum of approximately 20 to 30 minutes communication per orbit, which reminds us how large Russia is. But there are some orbits where they cannot communicate with ground stations at all. In such a case, Russian cosmonauts have to deal with any trouble by themselves. Therefore, they are required to acquire the abilities and skills needed to understand the spacecraft as a system, not a black box.

Soyuz, on which three astronauts are aboard, is controlled by a commander (captain) and a flight engineer. A flight engineer is required to have the skills to perform almost the same operations as the commander. As a result, more than half of our 825 hours of training were used for learning the Soyuz system.

After each session for each subsystem, including a "thermal control system", a "communication system" and an "attitude control system", we had to pass an oral examination conducted by specialists. It was my first time to go though these kinds of examinations since my school days, apart from the test to be certified as an astronaut by then National Space Development Agency of Japan (currently JAXA.)

I felt different stress from that we experienced when I worked very hard to "get the necessary credits" as a student. The test results of Russian cosmonaut candidates are always announced among themselves at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center so that they are always training under pressure.

When I took the university entrance examination, I recall that I studied frantically after I was shocked to find that I was ranked in the lowest level expected to pass a university entrance examination when I was a student at a major Japanese prep school. However, I can say that I probably worked harder in Russia.

Back 2/4 Next