Koichi Wakata, the first Japanese astronaut to live aboard the International Space Station (ISS), will be sent to command the ISS in March, officials said.
Wakata (50), who works for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, will be the first Japanese astronaut to lead a human space mission.
“It means a lot to Japan to have its own representative to command the International Space Station,” Wakata said. “It is a big milestone for Japan … to have this experience,” he added.
In 2009, Wakata became the first astronaut from Japan to live aboard the $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 250 miles above Earth.
Wakata, who was part of two missions on NASA’s now-retired space shuttles, is training for his fourth flight along with NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, both 53, the international press reports.
Wakata, a native of Saitama, Japan, holds a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering, a master’s in applied mechanics and a doctorate in aerospace engineering from Kyushu University. Before being selected as an astronaut in 1992, he worked as an aircraft structural engineer for Japan Airlines.