• Jiji


Japan will begin accepting applications for new astronauts for the first time in 13 years, science minister Shinsuke Suematsu said Friday.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to select a few candidates by February 2023 to take part in the Artemis international lunar exploration project, potentially making them the first Japanese to land on the moon.

It will mark the sixth time that JAXA has accepted applications for new astronauts, with the last recruiting period taking place in 2008. The agency now plans to solicit applications from potential astronauts roughly once every five years.

JAXA abolished its requirement of a four-year university degree in the field of natural sciences in order to attract a diversity of talent. Candidates must have at least three years of work experience to apply.

Although the change opens up applications for those with degrees in the field of humanities, candidates will still be tested for knowledge in natural sciences.

The height requirement was also eased from at least 158 centimeters to at least 149.5 centimeters. JAXA is aiming to push up the proportion of women among all applicants to around 30% from some 10% in the past.

The application process will run from Dec. 20 to March 4 next year. After cutting the number of candidates down to around 200 people based on application documents, English tests and general education tests planned in May 2022, JAXA will hold a three-stage screening process from July that year.

Selected candidates will join the agency in April 2023 and undergo basic training for about two years mainly in Japan before becoming certified JAXA astronauts in March 2025.

“I hope people with brilliant talents not seen before will participate in space development as a result of making it easier to apply,” said Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui, 51, who was selected in the last application process.

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