Astronaut Kouichi Wakata and Flight Memorial of Subaru Telescope

March 15, 2009

Space shuttle Discovery with an Astronaut Kouichi Wakata was launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, U.S.A., on March 15, 2009 local time. A banner which has the collection of the Subaru staff writings were brought as an Official Flight Kit (OFK) on Discovery.

Space shuttle Discovery
at the launch pad

He has joined space shuttle flights twice, on Endeavor in January of 1996 and on Discovery in October of 2000. In May of 2002, about 2 years after his second flight, he visited Hilo Base Facility of Subaru Telescope in Hilo, Hawaii. (See Topics: Astronaut Kouichi Wakata Visits Subaru Telescope)

At first, his third time space flight was scheduled at the end of 2008, but it was postponed to February of 2009. This flight is a long term mission for him, and he will stay at the International Space Station (ISS) for about three months. During his hard training before the launch, he sent an e-mail to Dr. Tetsuharu Fuse at the Public Information and Outreach Office of Subaru Telescope. In the mail, he said that he would like to bring memorial goods of Subaru Telescope as OFK, which is a medal, banner, etc. of the astronaut’s attended schools or institutes, brought to a space shuttle as memorials.

Subaru’s OFK banner. The actual banner has staff’s writing.

We decided to make a banner with a background as a picture of the Mauna Kea summit and Subaru Staff member’s names written by each member on it. The work place of Subaru Telescope is separated into Hawaii and Japan. At first, Hilo Base Facility staff wrote their names in August of 2008. Following that, the banner was sent to the NAOJ’s Mitaka Campus at Tokyo in Japan, and their staff members wrote in September of 2008. Then, the banner was sent to NASA by way of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) at Tsukuba, Ibaraki prefecture in Japan.

Trace of Discovery

After he returns to the earth from ISS, the banner will be sent back to Hilo Base Facility. Dr. Fuse, who took the banner picture and watched the shuttle launch at Kennedy Space Center, sent the following message to Astronaut Wakata: "It would be a pleasure if you visit Hilo Base Facility again and have your autograph on the banner."


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