Japanese astronaut becomes International Space Station commander

March 10, 2014
Astronaut Koichi Wakata, pictured at the Baikonur cosmodrome on November 6, 2013, has become the first Japanese commander of the International Space Station

Astronaut Koichi Wakata has become the first Japanese commander of the International Space Station, according to the country's space agency.

In a simple ceremony onboard the station, Wakata took over the facility's command from Russian predecessor Oleg Kotov, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said late Sunday.

Most previous ISS commanders have hailed from Russia or the United States.

"I am humbled to be assuming command of the station," Wakata said in a video, as he thanked fellow astronauts who were returning to Earth.

"We have had unforgettable memories together."

Wakata, 50, a veteran of several space missions, left for the ISS in November on Russia's Soyuz rocket, and will serve as the commander until May when he is scheduled to return home.

He was joined by what has been billed as the world's first robot astronaut.

Kirobo, a pint-sized android equipped with artificial intelligence, was sent as part of a longer-term project to see how a robot can act as a companion for isolated people, particularly to see if it can develop conversational skills.

Explore further: Japan's robot astronaut awaiting 'compatriot' spaceman

Related Stories

Robot buddy to keep Japan astronaut company

November 30, 2012

A small humanoid robot that can talk will be sent into space to provide conversational company for a Japanese astronaut on a six-month mission, according to new plans.

Trio takes Soyuz for spin around ISS

November 1, 2013

An international trio of astronauts on Thursday took a Soyuz space capsule on a rare trip around the International Space Station in preparation for the arrival of a new crew next week.

Recommended for you

Video: A colorful 'landing' on Pluto

January 20, 2017

What would it be like to actually land on Pluto? This movie was made from more than 100 images taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft over six weeks of approach and close flyby in the summer of 2015. The video offers a trip ...

The evolution of massive galaxy clusters

January 20, 2017

Galaxy clusters have long been recognized as important laboratories for the study of galaxy formation and evolution. The advent of the new generation of millimeter and submillimeter wave survey telescopes, like the South ...

Image: Wavemaker moon Daphnis

January 20, 2017

The wavemaker moon, Daphnis, is featured in this view, taken as NASA's Cassini spacecraft made one of its ring-grazing passes over the outer edges of Saturn's rings on Jan. 16, 2017. This is the closest view of the small ...

Freeze-dried food and 1 bathroom: 6 simulate Mars in dome

January 20, 2017

Crammed into a dome with one bathroom, six scientists will spend eight months munching on mostly freeze-dried foods—with a rare treat of Spam—and have only their small sleeping quarters to retreat to for solace.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.