Journey from Earth to space, and back

On November 14, during the 23rd Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum in Manila, a first for the Philippines to host such event, the BusinessMirror interviewed Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (Jaxa) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

Besides being an astronaut, Noguchi is a Japanese aeronautical engineer. According to Jaxa, his first spaceflight was aboard the Discovery space shuttle with  mission STS-114, the “Return to Flight” space shuttle Mission on July 26, 2005. It was more than two years and five months after the space shuttle Columbia disaster, where the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated as it reentered to Earth from space and took the lives of seven crew members.

His next space mission was aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as a crew member of the ISS Expedition 22. He stayed for 161 days and reentered Earth on June 2, 2010.

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How was the training for astronaut?

The training itself was very rigorous, very tough and very challenging. But it was also very rewarding, because what you’re trying to learn is to to fly to space, ride on a rocket, use robotic arms, do the spacewalk, some exploration and some new scientific experiment. Those things are definitely fun to learn and very rewarding to me. You would also have the feeling that you are a part of a big team. It’s definitely a very big team sport and I’m very proud to be a member of the space development team.

What was the hardest struggle you had while training?

The hardest thing in our training would be the robotics and also the spacewalk because, definitely, these were new things (for me). The training was underwater and it was long. It usually lasted for six hours underwater, and, again, involved a lot of people and lot of team efforts.

What was the best thing or experiment you did in space?

Well, the very important thing I did was to conduct the spacewalk. It was not an experiment but still it’s a very fun thing to do, like installing new equipment and enhancing the capability of the space station.

(According to Jaxa, during Noguchi’s STS-114 mission in space, where the Discovery space shuttle docked at the ISS, Noguchi conducted three extravehicular activities as a lead spacewalker, such as demonstrating in-flight repair techniques on shuttle’s Thermal Protection System tiles; replacing a failed Control Moment Gyro with a new one; and installing the External Stowage Platform-2 on the ISS. In total, he had 20 hours and five minutes of spacewalk time.)

How did you feel when you were leaving for space, and then from space back to Earth?

Leaving for space is actually very easy. You only ride a rocket and usually, it just takes eigth minutes. But coming back was longer. Also, you had to counteract the one-G, and that takes a long time for rehabilitation. (One-G or the g-force is acceleration due to gravity.)

Being an astronaut is a profession that requires all of the person’s physical, mental and emotional strength to work together. It takes a lot of training and hard work, but like most astronauts and even to those aspiring to be one, it may be the most rewarding experience of a lifetime. To journey into space is bringing humanity beyond the depths of our limitations and getting a whole view of the Earth at a different vantage point—from the ISS, it must be the most beautiful thing that their eyes would see.

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