Noguchi tells Koizumi of space walk rush

by Reiji Yoshida

Astronaut Soichi Noguchi says that during his first space walk last Saturday, he felt he would start plummeting toward Earth 400 km away.

But he soon got used to zero-gravity and started enjoying the feeling, which is somewhat like being a star flying around the planet, Japan’s only member of the space shuttle Discovery said Thursday evening in a live space-to-Earth interview with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

“You are flying around Earth at the speed of 28,000 km per hour, aren’t you? . . . How do you feel? I can’t imagine,” Koizumi said to Noguchi, who was speaking from the International Space Station.

“I felt as if I became a star traveling around Earth,” answered Noguchi as he chatted with Koizumi and a group of children invited to the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in Tokyo.

Noguchi and six other astronauts launched into space on July 26 to carry out a 13-day mission.

Koizumi, in the middle of a crucial political battle to privatize the postal services, told Noguchi he’s been watching TV almost every day to catch reports about him and his activities in space.

Koizumi asked Noguchi if he could sleep well aboard the shuttle and how the new ramen Noguchi brought with him tasted.

Noguchi said he can “fall to sleep instantly” because he works so hard during his shift, and the ramen was “surprisingly good,” just like the ramen on Earth. “I’m really glad because my dream has come true,” said the 40-year-old native of Yokohama, who started dreaming of becoming an astronaut when he was a little kid.