Japan’s Space Agency Unveils Moonscape Venue for Astronauts’ Final Exam

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Japan’s Space Agency Unveils Moonscape Venue for Astronauts’ Final Exam

Insider Brief:

  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) unveiled one of the venues (a simulated moonscape) for the final stage of its new astronaut selection program to the media here on January 19.
  • The venue is a testing field inside the space-probe experiment building at the agency’s Sagamihara Campus south of Tokyo.
  • Eight men and two women have advanced to the final stage of the process, only a very small number of whom will be named astronauts in late February.

NEWS RELEASE — Sagamihara, Kanagawa / January 20, 2023 — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) unveiled one of the venues for the final stage of its new astronaut selection program to the media here on Jan. 19: a simulated moonscape.

The venue is a testing field inside the space-probe experiment building at the agency’s Sagamihara Campus south of Tokyo. JAXA is choosing a new crop of astronauts for the first time in 14 years. Eight men and two women have advanced to the final stage of the process, only a very small number of whom will be named astronauts in late February.

The 400-square-meter slice of recreated lunar surface comes complete with regolith and “sunlight” simulating what astronauts would experience on Earth’s only natural satellite. The final exam was not shown to media. According to JAXA, astronaut candidates were divided into three teams and remotely controlled a rover they had made. They also did a “moonwalk” in dust-resistant suits and explained about it in English in an interview.

The final selection process began on Jan. 10, and other segments will be conducted at facilities abroad. JAXA is looking to have its new astronauts on the U.S.-led Gateway program — a planned space station in lunar orbit. They are also expected to join missions to the moon’s surface.

JAXA Public Affairs Department chief Kaori Sasaki said of the new recruits, “We want those who can think what will benefit humankind in the 21st century.”

SOURCE: The Mainichi

(Japanese original by Yurika Tarumi, Science & Environment News Department)

Feature image: The space-probe field, one of the astronaut selection final exam venues, is seen in an experiment building at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Sagamihara Campus in Kanagawa Prefecture, on Jan. 19, 2023. Credit: Mainichi / Yurika Tarumi