JAXA's Astronaut Wakata Returns Memento of Subaru Telescope from Space Flight

June 13, 2011

Photo 1: JAXA's Astronaut Koichi Wakata.

On May 17, 2011, Japanese Astronaut Dr. Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) returned a banner given to him by Subaru Telescope to carry with him into space when he traveled to and lived on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2009. The banner, which pictured the Subaru Telescope atop Mauna Kea, was signed by Subaru staff in Hilo and Mitaka and then become an Official Flight Kit (OFK) aboard the space shuttle Discovery. At a ceremony held in the planetarium at `Imiloa Astronomy Center near Subaru Telescope's base facility in Hilo, an overflow audience of over 150 people watched Dr. Wakata return the vacuum-packed banner to Dr. Hideki Takami, the Director of Subaru Telescope. As Dr. Takami opened the pack and took out the banner, Subaru staff members who attended the ceremony were very excited to actually witness and be so close to the Subaru memento that had been carried into space.

After the ceremony, Dr. Wakata shared some of his experiences about his three space shuttle flights and time on the ISS. Wearing his blue space flight suit, Wakata pleased the audience with his informative and witty talk. Using pictures and videos, he discussed not only his life on the ISS but also the cutting-edge technology used in the ISS. The audience gave a particularly loud cheer when Dr. Wakata showed pictures of Mauna Kea on the Big Island taken from space.

Before the OFK ceremony and his presentation at `Imiloa, Dr. Wakata spent the day visiting the summit facility of Subaru Telescope atop Mauna Kea for the first time. He seemed to marvel not only at the beauty and views at the summit but also at the technological precision and enormous size of the Subaru Telescope. Showing great interest, he conversed with the staff about the processes of telescope maintenance and development of its instruments. Although their sites and roles of work are different, Dr. Wakata and Subaru staff members share goals of exploring the wonders of the universe in challenging and difficult environments. Dr. Wakata's words of appreciation brought encouragement to Subaru's staff members.


Dr. Wakata is scheduled to fly to the ISS in 2013 as the first Japanese commander of the ISS. The staff at Subaru Telescope sincerely wishes him a safe flight and a successful mission.



Photo 2: JAXA's Astronaut Wakata returns the banner to Director Takami.



Photo 3: JAXA's Astronaut Wakata answers questions from the audience.



Photo 4: JAXA's Astronaut Wakata converses with Subaru's day crew at the summit facility.


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