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Astronaut Soichi Noguchi, whose mission on the space shuttle Atlantis in March has been scrubbed in the wake of the Feb. 1 re-entry disintegration of the Columbia, expressed determination Friday to join the crew if the flight is rescheduled.

“A space challenge is worth making even if it entails risks. I would like to continue with the voyage with the aim of honoring the wishes of the seven lost crew members,” he said, referring to the astronauts aboard the Columbia.

Noguchi, 37, was speaking in Houston at a news conference for reporters in Tokyo.

“I may have to wait half a year or one year, but I would like to keep myself ready all the time so that I can respond no matter when the flight is rescheduled,” he said.

Noguchi had been assigned to carry out installation work aboard the International Space Station.

“I have many memories, and (the Columbia loss) caused me pain,” said Noguchi, a close friend of the Columbia’s commander, Rick Husband, and two other crew members. When he had a chance to speak with Husband’s wife, Evelyn, he said he did not know what to say. She said she hopes he will do his best on his mission.

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