August 7 – First Japanese Astronauts Chosen

Published on August 7, 2013

On this date in 1985, three Japanese men were chosen as their nation's first astronauts.

Mamoru Mohri is a chemist who worked with materials in vacuums (environments with no air—you know, like outer space!). He has also worked with engineering of nuclear-fusion projects. He was selected to be a payload specialist, and he became the first Japanese citizen in space. He flew in two Space Shuttle missions (in 1992 and 2000), and served as chief payload specialist for Spacelab-J.

Chiaki Mukai is a doctor who became the first Japanese woman in space, and the first Japanese citizen to have two spaceflights. She flew in two Space Shuttle missions (in 1994 and 1998), one of which was a Spacelab mission.

Takao Doi is an aerospace engineer who has studied propulsion systems and microgravity (really, really, really low gravity situations—you know, like space!). He also flew in two Space Shuttle missions (in 1997 and 2008) and visited the International Space Station. He is the first Japanese astronaut to conduct a spacewalk—and the first person to throw a boomerang in space. (The boomerang was specially designed to be used in microgravity.)

I think older Americans (like me!) tend to think of spaceflight as something that Russia (or the Soviet Union) and the U.S. does (or did), and we tend to think of the Space Shuttle as an American thing. However, space exploration is and should be a global effort, and multiple nations have worked together, especially recently, on space missions. Also, there is now commercial spaceflight, in which private companies rather than governments fund and design missions, and space tourism, in which ordinary people, rather than astronauts, visit outer space.

If I did my research correctly, in addition to Japanese astronauts, Space Shuttle missions included astronauts from Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Israel, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Ukraine. Many more nations are represented on Soviet and Russian spaceflights.

Right now only Russia and China has human spaceflight capability. India, Iran, Japan, and the European Space Agency all have manned missions in planning stages. I would love to see America get back in the game that it helped lead for so long!

Also on this date:

National Lighthouse Day 

Plan ahead:

Here are my Pinterest pages on August holidayshistorical anniversaries in August, and August birthdays.

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