in Space (and on Earth) "I need challenges," said Takayoshi Nishikawa.
And he means it. Until October 2000, he was in charge of NASDA
(National Space Development Agency of Japan) for over three years,
where he prepared and conducted the training program for station
ASCANs (Astronaut Candidates). While showing them the ropes at
the Tsukuba Space Center on the Japanese
Experiment Module (JEM) or "Kibo", he was in training himself
for a triathlon. Young, spirited, and possessing a real sense
of adventure, Nishikawa enjoys working on a project that takes
time to come to life.
Hope of Kibo "I believe we can discover something new," said
Nishikawa of Kibo,
the first manned facility (to be launched in 2004) in which a
maximum of four astronauts will be able to perform long-term research
and experiments. "I think the new scientific fields will arise
from a global culture." As Japan's impressive contribution to
the International Space Station, Kibo consists of two experimental
Module (PMT) and Exposed
Facility (like a back porch with ten mounting spaces for experiments),
Logistics Modules attached to each of them, and a Manipulator
(a small robotic arm for payload operations). Kibo means "hope"
in English and represents the wish that station activities will
better life on Earth.
Proud Role Japan was eager to join the space station program.
Not only is it a chance for Japan to further its technological
expertise, but also its scientific areas of excellence, including
life sciences and the creation of new metals. And, for the first
time, they are training their own astronauts (usually handled
by NASA) as well as providing Kibo training to other astronauts
traveling to the space station. "This basic training conducted
by NASDA is challenging and very significant for advancing Japanese
space development," said Nishikawa. Training ASCANs at home helps
Japan accumulate training technology as well as make the Japanese
people "feel closer to the astronauts."
Training ASCANs have much to learn. Basic
Training lasts about one and one half years, covers about
230 subjects and requires almost 1,600 hours of instruction. There
are four key areas of training designed to give ASCANs a broad
core of knowledge. "Basic Engineering and Outline of Space Systems"
covers spacecraft system training operation and summaries of the
Space Shuttle, Russian Soyuz (at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training
Center), and H-II rocket. "Science " includes the general principles
of Life Sciences, Microgravity Science, Earth Observation, and
Space Science for experiments and observations aboard the space
station. "Space Station and Kibo Systems" outlines on-orbit operations
and utilization. ASCANs will study English, the official station
language, and Russian for training in Russia. They'll
learn about physical conditioning, first aid, decision making,
photography, media relations, radio communication, and pilot training.
Specialized training encompasses survival procedures, Extra Vehicular
Activity (EVA) for operations outside the station, and hyperbaric
(altitude) chamber training in case astronauts experience a depressurization
or a low-pressure environment. Depending on their 3-6 month space
station mission, they'll receive further Advanced Training and
Increment-Specific Training. Because Japan's astronaut corps is
small, NASDA promotes interaction with senior Japanese astronauts
training at Johnson Space Center and astronauts in other countries.
All in all, training is designed to make astronauts comfortable
aboard Kibo, "so they feel that JEM is their own home, " said