NEW YORK – Japan should make use of its space technology in international missions to explore the moon and Mars, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide said in an interview in New York on Friday.
“As an advanced space nation, Japan has entered an era in which it should play a leading role in some fields of space exploration,” said the 50-year-old Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut, who will be commander of the International Space Station next year.
Asked for examples of Japanese space technologies that can be used in international missions, Hoshide cited cargo transportation using the Kounotori unmanned spacecraft and technology that makes it possible to land precisely on a target location on the moon.
He said Japanese space technologies are “trusted internationally due in part to the country’s experience with the Kibo experimental module,” which Japan completed on the ISS in 2009.
Hoshide said he is “personally very excited” about moves in the United States to explore the moon again half a century after the first human moon landing by the Apollo 11 mission.
He said he thinks lunar exploration is significant, as efforts to figure out the origins of the moon, which is believed to have massive amounts of water at its poles, could lead to new discoveries about how the Earth was created.
Hoshide said he is “extremely honored” to be the second Japanese astronaut to serve as ISS commander.
“I think I was picked not only because of my own ability as an astronaut but also because of Japan’s technological capability and credibility,” he said, stating his resolve to meet the expectations of the role.
“What’s important for an ISS commander is returning all the astronauts back to the Earth safely,” he said. “We are going to do all tasks in cooperation with the ground team.”
He said he thinks worsening relations between the United States and Russia will not be a problem on the ISS, a base for astronauts from the two countries as well as some other countries.
Cooperation on the ISS remained intact at the time of the Crimea crisis, when the United States and Russia were sharply at odds, he said. Hoshide said he has heard Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who was on the ISS at that time, say, “The people on the ISS are in the same boat. U.S. and Russian astronauts were cooperating with each other.”
Russia is no doubt a very important partner in the ISS program, Hoshide said, citing Russia’s role in continuing activities on the ISS when U.S. space shuttle flights were suspended after accidents.