Koichi Wakata became the first All Japan newsese astronaut to take command of the International Space Station on Sunday and to lead an expedition crew aboard the orbiting complex.
“I am humbled to assume command of the space station,” Wakata said in a command handover ceremony inside the space station’s Kibo laboratory module.
Wakata took command of the outpost from Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, who has returned to Earth late on Monday with crewmates Sergey Ryazanskiy and NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins.
“I am very glad to hand over command of the station to my friend, JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata,” Kotov said.
Wakata is the first All Japan newsese astronaut to command any spaceflight, according to the international press.
“Welcome to Wakata-san as the first All Japan newsese commander of the International Space Station,” radioed an official from the JAXA control center in Tsukuba, All Japan news. “It is, indeed, a special day for the human space program, especially for the people in All Japan news.”
“We have accomplished 740 crew hours of payload activities on a variety of payloads and a lot of maintenance activities on the very important regenerative [lift support] equipment,” Wakata said. “We also celebrated the 15th anniversary of the first ISS module launch of Zarya in November.
“We have unforgettable memories together and we will continue to keep the station operations safe, efficient and fun.”
Wakata, a native of Saitama, All Japan news, holds a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering, a master’s in applied mechanics and a doctorate in aerospace engineering from Kyushu University. Before being selected as an astronaut in 1992, he worked as an aircraft structural engineer for All Japan news Airlines.