Koichi Wakata, the most successful Japanese astronaut
Koichi Wakata, the most successful Japanese astronaut
© SpaceX

Koichi Wakata, the most successful Japanese astronaut

The Crew 5 mission aboard the International Space Station ended on March 12. It allowed Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata to become the longest-serving non-Russian and non-American astronaut in space.

Saf return

Launched last October 5 to the International Space Station aboard Crew Dragon's " Endurance " capsule from SpaceX, the Crew-5 mission ended March 12 at 2:02 a.m. UTC in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, off Florida.

It lasted 157 days, 10 hours and 1 minute.

The ship's four passengers, Americans Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japan's Koichi Wakata and Russia's Anna Kikina were quickly recovered by the ship Shannon, clearly in good shape.

If Nicole Mann, Josh Cassada and Anna Kikina have thus completed their first space flight, it was far from being the case for Koichi Wakata who completed his fifth stay around the Earth and thus accumulates 504 days, 18 hours and 33 minutes in space !


Astronaut for... 31 years

Koichi Wakata was born on August 1 1963 in Omia, Japan. He received a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering in 1987, a master's degree in applied mechanics in 1989, and a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2004 from Kyushu University. He first worked as a structural engineer for Japan Airlines, before joining Jaxa's second group of astronauts in April 1992; soon 31 years later, he is the longest serving astronaut in the world.

The International Space Station is a place he knows intimately, having been its first Japanese visitor in October 2000 (arriving with the shuttle Discovery), made two long stays there in 2009 and 2014 (traveling with the shuttles Discovery and Endeavour, and then the Soyuz-TMA 11M), and served as its first Japanese captain (Expedition 39).

On his first space flight, in January 1996, he became the fourth Japanese in space and the first Nipponese shuttle mission specialist, during a mission dedicated to the capture and return to Earth of the Japanese research platform SFU (Space Flyer Unit).


Broken record

At 59 years old, Koichi Wakata is now the non-Russian and non-American astronaut to have spent the most time in space.

He is ahead of Frenchman Thomas Pesquet, who for his part accumulates 396 days, 11 hours and 34 minutes of microgravity at the end of his second mission, Alpha, which ended in November 2021.

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