Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata will stay at the International Space Station for six months starting at the end of 2013 and will serve as the first Japanese captain of the ISS in the last two months of the mission, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Wednesday. It will be the fourth space mission for Wakata, 47, and also be his second long-term assignment, the organization known as JAXA said. Wakata will be shuttled to the ISS aboard Russia’s Soyuz, it said.
"I am fully realizing the importance of the mission," Wakata said in a statement.
The 16-day mission will feature five spacewalks and complete construction of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory. Astronauts will attach a platform to the outside of the Japanese module that will allow experiments to be exposed to space.
The STS-127 crew members are Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Dave Wolf, Christopher Cassidy, Tom Marshburn, Tim Kopra and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Julie Payette. Kopra will join the space station crew and replace Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata. Wakata will return to Earth on Endeavour to conclude a three-month stay at the station.
As of now, the Launch Team is cautiously optimistic that weather is clearing and teams will be able to begin tanking. Tanking was scheduled to begin at approximately 8:15 p.m. EDT, but is being delayed due to weather conditions. There is currently a 40 percent chance of weather prohibiting tanking as a result of anvil clouds and lightning in the area. For tanking, lightning cannot be within 5 miles of the launch pad.
The team still is in a posture to make the 5:40 a.m. launch attempt tomorrow morning.
Astronaut Koichi Wakata, who has been aboard the International Space Station since mid-March, has carried out a series of offbeat space experiments proposed by the Japanese public.
The experiments, which the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has dubbed “Try Zero-G,” consist mainly of physical exercises and gymnastics (including calisthenics, push-ups, flips, twirls, cartwheels, overhead soccer kicks, and swimming). In addition, Wakata practices origami as he folds clothes, rides a “magic carpet,” squirts water from a syringe, puts eyedrops in his eye, and attempts to propel himself through the room by flapping a fan. He also enlists the help of a fellow astronaut for some arm wrestling, hand-shaking, slap sumo, and tug of war. And who says you can’t have fun while fly 17,500 miles an hour around a lump of rock?
For a list complete list of the stunts check out our previous article about Koichi Wakata.
On March 18, astronaut Koichi Wakata arrived at the International Space Station to begin his three-month space sojourn — the longest ever for a Japanese spaceman. Although much of Wakata’s time in space will be devoted to official research and maintenance duties, he plans to set aside a little free time for 16 offbeat experiments proposed by the Japanese public.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) selected the extra experiments from nearly 1,600 proposals they received after asking the public what tests they would like to see performed in space. The 16 experiments are listed here as questions posed to Wakata.
1. Calisthenics: Is it possible to follow an audio-guided workout program in zero gravity?
2. Backflips: On Earth, backflips take a lot of practice and leg strength. How about in zero gravity?
3. Volleying (soccer): Crumple a piece of paper into a ball and try kicking it around. How does the ball behave in zero gravity? Can you volley it?
4. Push-ups: In space, can you do push-ups while facing the ceiling or walls?
5. Cartwheels: In zero gravity, can you rotate yourself continuously like a windmill?
6. Swimming: Try to swim through the air as if you were in water. Can you move forward by swimming? If not, why not?
7. Spin like an ice skater: On Earth, ice skaters can increase their rotation speed by pulling their arms closer in to the body while they spin. Does the same thing happen in zero gravity? If so, what is the reason?
8. Folding clothes: In space, can you fold clothes and put them away as you do on Earth? It seems that the shirt sleeves would be difficult to keep in place. What is the best way to fold clothes in space?
9. Magic carpet: Try to sit on a floating carpet. Magic carpets are a fantasy on Earth, but are they possible in space?
10. Water gun: On Earth, if you squeeze a drink bag, a single stream of liquid shoots out through the straw hole and falls to the ground. How does the liquid behave in zero gravity?
11. Eye drops: On Earth, you have to face upward to put eye drops into your eyes. Is there a better way to do this in zero gravity?
12. Propulsion through space: When floating in zero gravity, how much power do you need in order to propel yourself around? Can you move simply by blowing air from your mouth or by flapping a hand-fan?
The next four activities are to be performed by two people:
13. Arm wrestling
14. Shaking hands
JAXA plans to release videos of Wakata’s experiments in July.