• Kyodo News

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Lt. Col. Kimiya Yui, an Air Self-Defense Force fighter pilot chosen to become an astronaut, left the service Tuesday to join the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and begin training for the much-coveted profession.

“I’m sorry that I have to leave the duty of national defense,” Yui said during a ceremony held at the Defense Ministry.

“My path will switch to space development, but I will not forget a sense of gratitude to the Japanese people and will work hard on my training and missions without fearing risks,” he said.

Yui, 39, and Takuya Onishi, 33, a copilot for All Nippon Airways Co., will join JAXA on Wednesday. They will begin training at NASA in August.

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