August 27, 2011
Exploring the International Space Station with JAXA Astronaut Koichi Wakata
August 27th, the first Saturday after classrooms resumed throughout Houston, was a surprisingly busy day for the Children’s Museum of Houston. One reason for the increased traffic was Japanese Astronaut Koichi Wakata who gave a lecture and Q&A session for an auditorium packed with space-enthusiasts both young and old. The event was a collaboration between the Consulate-General of Japan at Houston and the Children’s Museum of Houston with the assistance of the Japanese Aeronautical Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Mr. Koichi Wakata, Japanese Engineer and JAXA Astronaut, is a veteran of four NASA Space Shuttle missions and has spent more than five months in space. Mr. Wakata will become the first Japanese commander of the International Space Station when he flies as part of Soyuz TMA-11M.Expedition 38/39 in 2013. Saturday marked the first time in Texas that Mr. Wakata has given a lecture about his experiences in English and the experience was wonderful for anyone who has an interest in space.
The Japanese Broadcasting Network NHK was present filming for an upcoming documentary they are making about Mr. Wakata. They took video of Wakata as he arrived at the museum, taking photos with fans, signing autographs and answering questions until the event was finished.
The lecture opened with brief remarks from Acting Consul-General Takahiko Watabe, who noted that while NASA had retired the Shuttle Program in July, the space program would continue through an international collaboration and that Japan was excited to play its part to work toward a true space age.
Following the remarks, Mr. Wakata began his lecture by showing slides about the International Space Station, highlighting various machinery, experiments, and modules aboard, showcasing Japan’s Kibo Module, which was designed and constructed by JAXA to be a multi-faceted lab to conduct orbital experiments aboard the ISS. He then transitioned into voice-over narration for a video created by JAXA, which followed Mr. Wakata’s time aboard the space station in a series of videos from the shuttle mission. The video also showed a series of scenes showing his life aboard the station: exercise-time, eating meals in orbit, all sorts of experiments, and fun aboard the station gave an all-encompassing view about life in space. The video alone was great to watch, but Mr. Wakata’s narration gave the images and sounds more depth.
The lecture concluded with a Q&A session where children asked Wakata many questions about life as an astronaut and about space, asking how one becomes an astronaut, if he was ever scared to be in space, what the timezone of the space station is, and many other great questions.
To help the experience appeal to all of the senses, the Consulate gave out samples of freeze-dried Astronaut-style Ice cream so that everyone could experience the taste of eating in space – a delicious way to finish such an interesting lecture about life in space!