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Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi to join new ISS mission from 2019

Kyodo

Astronaut Soichi Noguchi has been selected to take part in a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station starting around the end of 2019, Japan’s space agency said Tuesday.

It will be the third ISS mission for the 52-year-old, following earlier expeditions in 2005 and 2009. Training for the mission, which will be carried out in both Japan and the United States, starts from Nov. 20.

“I am extremely honored as I may be able to witness a big turning point in the history of manned space flights,” Noguchi said.

Noguchi will be responsible for maintaining ISS facilities, including the Japanese laboratory module Kibo, as well as conducting experiments and operating the station’s robotic arm.

He will fly to the station with other crew members aboard either a Russian Soyuz spacecraft or a new launch vehicle that will be developed by the United States.

A native of Yokohama, Noguchi was selected as a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut in 1996. He flew to the ISS in the U.S. space shuttle Discovery in July 2005 and spent 163 days in space on another mission between December 2009 and June 2010.

According to JAXA, 11 Japanese, including Noguchi, have traveled to space. On Dec. 17, another Japanese astronaut, Norishige Kanai, is set to fly to the ISS, where he is scheduled to conduct experiments — such as rearing mice in weightless conditions — through April 2018.