September 30, 2023

Mission Specialist Naoko Yamazaki of NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, now in space on the space shuttle Discovery’s STS-131 crew (NASA photo by Kim Shiflett)

AAP staff report

Kennedy Space Center, Fla. (April 5, 2010) – The space shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Monday at 6:21 a.m., according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Mike Moses, chair of the Mission Management Team, said the spacecraft and crew should arrive at the International Space Station early on Wednesday, April 7 to complete a 13-day mission at the orbiting complex.

Among the crew is Naoko Yamazaki, 39, a Japan Aerospace Exploration and NASA astronaut, along with crew commander Alan G. Poindexter, mission pilot James P. Dutton Jr., mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, and Stephanie Wilson.

Attending the launch was Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency President Keiji Tachikawa, who noted that this will be the first time two Japanese astronauts will be in space at the same time, with Yamazaki and also Soichi Noguchi, a fellow JAXA and NASA astronaut from Yokohama who has been on board the space station since December 2009 on a 6-month tour of duty as a flight engineer.

This will be the first time in the history of any space program that four women will be in space at the same time. The three female crewmembers arriving on board Discovery, Metcalf-Lindenburger, Wilson and Yamazaki, will meet up with Shannon Walker, Ph.D., already on board the ISS.

As there is one Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut on each crew, the mission is also the first time for two JAXA astronauts to be in space at the same time.

JAXA astronaut Naoko Yamazaki is from Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. She is a graduate of Ochanomizu University Senior High School, and earned a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Tokyo.

Yamazaki, who is married to Taichi Yamazaki and has one child, Yuki, joined the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) in 1996 and was involved in the Japanese Experiment Module system integration, and with the development of the ISS Centrifuge (life science experiment facility).

In 1999, Yamazaki was selected as one of three Japanese astronaut candidates for the International Space Station by NASDA – which merged with the Institute of Space & Astronautic Science and the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan to become the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in 2003. She was certified as an astronaut in September 2001 and continued with ISS Advanced Training in addition and in the development Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” and the Centrifuge.

In 2004, Yamazaki completed Soyuz-TMA Flight Engineer-1 training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. She arrived at the Johnson Space Center in 2004 and completed Astronaut Candidate Training in 2006.

Yamazaki in her capacity as mission loadmaster will be responsible for all payload and transfer operations. She will be involved with the retrieval of a science experiment on the Japanese Kibo Laboratory’s exposed facility, and will also assist in other operations including the filming of a NASA education film on robotic arm operations.

In the space shuttle’s cargo bay is the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module – Leonardo, which is carrying several science racks, the last of the four crew quarters and supplies for the space station. While docked to the station, Discovery’s crew will conduct three spacewalks and spend about 100 combined hours moving cargo in and out of Leonardo and the shuttle’s middeck.

Leonardo includes components that provide life support, fire detection and suppression, electrical distribution and computers when it is attached to the station. The cylindrical logistics module acts as a pressurized “moving van” for the space station, carrying cargo, experiments and supplies for delivery to support the six-person crew on-board the station.

Another unit to be deployed is GLACIER, a freezer designed to provide cryogenic transportation and preservation capability for samples. The unit is capable of transport and operation in the middeck and on-orbit operation in the EXPRESS Rack.

The Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) provides new capability for scientific and commercial payloads and will be a resource for public outreach and educational opportunities for Earth Sciences. Images from space have many applications including study of global climates, land and sea formations, and crop and weather damage and health assessments. Special sensors can also provide important data regarding transient atmospheric and geologic phenomena, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions, as well as act as a test bed for collecting data for new sensor technology development.

There are only four shuttle missions left before the space shuttle fleet is retired.