We continue our series with countries around the world in this episode as we feature JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Joining us to discuss JAXA is astronaut Dr. Koichi Wakata. Dr. Wakata has accumulated 347 days in space spanning four missions, setting a record in Japanese human space flight history for the longest stay in space. He has flown on three space shuttle missions, and a Soyuz mission, and became the first Japanese Commander of the International Space Station. Dr. Wakata has held several key positions with JAXA, including serving as JAXA Vice President and Senior Advisor.

In this interview, Dr. Wakata discusses JAXA, his experience as an astronaut, current missions including Hayabusa2 (which rendezvoused with near-Earth asteroid Ryugu in 2018 and is returning samples to Earth later this year), and IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun), launched in 2010 and became the first spacecraft to successfully demonstrate solar sail technology in interplanetary space.

Dr. Wakata also discusses upcoming JAXA missions including: -SLIM: Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, which will demonstrate an accurate lunar landing -JUICE: Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, a partnership with ESA & the USA) -MMX: Martian Moons Exploration, a mission to travel to Mars and survey the red planet’s two moons: Phobos and Deimos, including collecting a sample from Phobos to bring back to Earth.


The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was born through the merger of three institutions, namely the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL) and the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA). It was designated as a core performance agency to support the Japanese government’s overall aerospace development and utilization.

JAXA, therefore, can conduct integrated operations from basic research and development, to utilization. In 2013, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of its founding, JAXA created the corporate slogan, “Explore to Realize,” which reflects its management philosophy of utilizing space and the sky to achieve a safe and affluent society.

JAXA became a National Research and Development Agency in April 2015, and took a new step forward to achieve optimal R&D achievements for Japan, according to the government’s purpose of establishing a national R&D agency.


JAXA – Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency with astronaut Dr. Koichi Wakata

JAXA astronaut Dr. Koichi Wakata

Dr. Koichi Wakata was born in 1963, in Saitama, Japan. He received B.S.in Aeronautical Engineering in 1987, M.S.in Applied Mechanics in 1989, and Doctorate in Aerospace Engineering in 2004, all from Kyushu University. Dr. Wakata was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1992 by the National Space Development Agency of Japan. He flew on the Space Shuttles Endeavour & Discovery, ISS, Soyuz TMA-14 & TMA-11M. Dr. Wakata was the commander of ISS Expedition 39 and has accumulated 347 days in space. Follow him on Twitter at @Astro_Wakata.

For more information, visit https://global.jaxa.jp/

Special thanks to Josh Malcak for sharing his space journey in this episode!

Video & images Courtesy of ISAS/JAXA and NASA

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