“We will continue to keep the operation safe, efficient, and fun,” he said saying farewell to the old crew.
Wakata was born in 1963 in Saitama, Japan and received his bachelor of science in aeronautical engineering in 1987. After graduating, he worked as an aircraft structural engineer for Japan Airlines, but in 1992 he was selected as a candidate by the National Space Development Agency of Japan.
Regardless to say, he qualified.
In October 2000, Wakata became the first Japanese astronaut to work on the ISS during the assembly of STS-92. This mission involved maintenance of several parts of the space station with Wakata helping with with the robotics operations to install a truss and a pressuring mating adapter.
Wakata, seen here, in 2000 when he became Japan’s first mission specialist aboard the ISS. Photo courtesy: NASA
Wakata led other expedition including NASA’s 10th Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO), which was an undersea look at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administation’s Aquarius habitat.
In July 2009, he flew as the first resident ISS crew member from Japan as a flight engineer and JAXA science officer for expeditions 18, 19, and 20.
This is the first command for Wakata, but surely not the last as the ISS continues its long history of exploring the universe while nestled in our atmosphere.