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Soichi Noguchi: JAXA astronaut and SpaceX Crew Dragon mission specialist

Soichi Noguchi is a Japanese astronaut and engineer with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). 

His first spaceflight took him to the International Space Station in July 2005 on Discovery's STS-114 mission, which was the first space shuttle flight after the Columbia tragedy in 2003. He returned to the ISS in December 2009 via a Soyuz spacecraft

On his third mission to space, he served as mission specialist on the Crew-1 flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon, launching on Nov. 15, 2020. The historic voyage was the first operational commercial crewed spacecraft to travel to the ISS. 

He is also one of only three people to have flown into space on three different spacecraft: NASA's space shuttle, Soyuz and Crew Dragon. He is the first non-American astronaut to do so.

As part of Expedition 64, Noguchi is expected to spend nearly 6 months in orbit, adding to his previous 177 days in space. 

Early years

Space shuttle Discovery stands bathed in light ahead of its last launch into space on Feb. 24, 2011 on NASA's STS-133 mission.

NASA's shuttle program inspired Noguchi to pursue a career in space. He would later go on to ride the space shuttle Discovery, pictured here, to the ISS. (Image credit: collectSPACE/Robert Z. Pearlman)

Soichi Noguchi was born in 1965 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, according to his JAXA biography. He joined the Scouts when he was 9 years old, according to the Scout News — an organization that he credits with his early experience learning the importance of teamwork.

In 1989, he earned a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Tokyo. He then received a master's degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1991 and a doctorate in Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies in 2020, also from the University of Tokyo.

In a 2010 interview with NASA, Noguchi said that both science fiction and fact inspired his decision to become an astronaut. "I really liked all the rockets and spacecraft and space adventures when I was in childhood. I watched all the movies like 'Star Wars,' or the 'Star Treks' or Japanese anime when themed with the space adventure," he said. 

"When I was a high school freshman I saw the [first] space shuttle, STS-1, go up on television and I thought, 'Wow, this is a great career, great profession; I wonder if I can be someday like a space traveler,'" he added. 

When did Soichi Noguchi become an astronaut?

STS-114 mission specialist Soichi Noguchi is backed away from the Z1 Truss worksite while carrying a broken control moment gyroscope atop the end of the International Space Station's robotic arm. The light sliver in the upper left is the limb of the Earth.

One of Noguchi's three spacewalks on his first mission to space, STS-114, which launched to the ISS and returned to Earth in 2005. (Image credit: NASA)

Noguchi was chosen to be an astronaut candidate by the organization now known as JAXA in 1996. 

After two years of Astronaut Candidate Training at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Noguchi was qualified for flight assignments aboard the space shuttle in 1998. That same year, he also participated in crewed space systems training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Russia. He then continued advanced training with NASA while working on the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) development tests.

In April 2001, he was assigned as a crew member for NASA's STS-114 mission that launched in 2005, during which he spent two weeks in space and conducted three spacewalks. As a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Discovery, Noguchi was a member of the first crew to launch after the disastrous loss of the astronauts on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.

In the crew's first post-mission briefing, Noguchi was one of many members of the crew and control teams to recall the previous mission's tragedy. "Obviously, Columbia was very close in our minds," Noguchi said.

Noguchi followed his first mission with a longer stay on the ISS in 2009 as part of Expedition 22/23. On Dec. 20, 2009, he launched in a Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, returning 163 days later in June 2010.

Pioneering commercial spaceflight

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins (right) and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi (left) are pictured during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station, on March 5, 2021.

 NASA astronaut Kate Rubins (right) and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi (left) are pictured during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station, on March 5, 2021. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Noguchi served as a mission specialist on the Crew-1 SpaceX Crew Dragon, the first full-fledged private crewed spacecraft mission to travel to the ISS. It launched Nov. 15, 2020. The Crew-1 astronauts named the spacecraft "Resilience" in recognition of challenges that people have faced and overcome during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. 

His first spacewalk as Flight Engineer of Expedition 64 set a world record (presented by the Guinness World Records organization) for the longest gap between spacewalks — an interval of 15 years, 214 days. 

Expedition 64 Flight Engineer and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi poses with radish plants growing inside the Advanced Plant Habitat, a fully automated facility that is used to conduct space botany investigations on the International Space Station.

Expedition 64 Flight Engineer and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi poses with radish plants growing inside the Advanced Plant Habitat, a fully automated facility that is used to conduct space botany investigations on the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)

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