Human Space Activities / Utilization of the Space Environment Astronauts

About JAXA's Astronauts

JAXA currently has six astronauts. In April 2021, Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide joined the Crew-2 team on the new Crew Dragon spacecraft built by the U.S. company SpaceX, and completed a long-term mission on the ISS. On the ISS, he performed a variety of experiments, and also served as the second Japanese astronaut to be appointed as the commander of the ISS. Next, Astronaut Koichi Wakata and Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa are scheduled to serve long-term missions on the ISS in the fall of 2022 and 2023, respectively. As missions involving astronauts will likely expand from now on to include lunar orbit and the lunar surface, JAXA started recruiting astronaut candidates for the first time in 13 years. Eligibility was broadly expanded to include those with no academic background, resulting in the largest ever number of submitted entries totaling 4,127 applicants*.
*Breakdown by gender: 3204 males, 919 females, and 4 who selected other.
*Breakdown by age: 811 respondents in their 20s or younger, 1,850 in their 30s, 973 in their 40s, 424 in their 50s, and 69 in their 60s or older.

Astronauts' Tasks

JAXA astronauts have been contributing to the ISS project through assembly work of the ISS and the Kibo, the Japanese Experiment Module, and have accumulated experience and knowledge. By utilizing these skills, the astronauts mainly perform the following tasks while they stay at the ISS.

Experiments and research

Space experiments utilizing the environment that is different from Earth such as microgravity and high vacuum.

Operation and maintenance of ISS and Kibo

Maintaining the ISS systems including those for electricity, communications, environment control, and experiment support. Repairing and maintaining the ISS.

Robotic arm operation

Using the ISS and Kibo robotic arms, installation, exchange and repair of experiment instruments and test materials are conducted. The arms are also used for capturing rendezvous and berth type spacecrafts such as the KOUNOTORI and Cygnus.

Extravehicular activities (with space suit on)

To carry out some repair and maintenance work on the ISS as well as experiments that cannot be conducted by a robotic arm.

How to Become an Astronaut

Selection of Astronaut Candidates

Needless to say, astronauts need to have expert knowledge of science and technology. In addition, they are required to be fluent in English, in order to communicate with astronauts from different countries who live and work with them. Astronauts have been selected based on the screening of application documents; a series of written exams on the English language, general and specialized knowledge of natural science, interviews, and medical and psychological examinations.

Training of Astronaut

After being selected, astronaut candidates undergo Basic Training. They obtain basic knowledge and technical skills in space engineering, space science, space medicine, the Space Shuttle and ISS systems, the English and Russian languages. They also receive flight training and physical training. Upon completion of Basic Training, they are officially certified as astronauts and receive more advanced training in the operation of spacecraft systems and experimental equipment, as well as training to work in space. They also continue with language instruction, flight training, and physical training.
After assignment to a specific ISS mission, astronauts receive training in the specific tasks to be conducted during launch, in orbit, and on return, and participate in simulation training along with other astronauts and flight controllers.
So far, those training sessions have been conducted mainly by NASA;
but for participation in the ISS, Japanese astronauts, training sessions will be conducted mainly at JAXA.

Summary of Japan-related missions and flight results