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Japan astronaut Soichi Noguchi 'deeply moved' by first space station return in a decade

In this frame grab from NASA TV, astronaut Soichi Noguchi, background right, is greeted by astronaut Kate Rubins, as he enters the International Space Station from the vestibule between the SpaceX Dragon capsule and the space station, early on Nov. 17, 2020. (NASA TV via AP)

TOKYO -- Upon his return to the International Space Station at 1:01 p.m. on Nov. 17 Japan time, Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi could not hide his joy over setting foot on the space station again for the first time in 10 years.

    "I'm deeply moved to be able to be back here again," Noguchi commented with a smile, after he was welcomed by three astronauts already staying on the space station.

    Noguchi also spoke in an earlier communication with Earth shortly after American aerospace manufacturer Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX)'s new spaceship Crew Dragon docked with the space station as part of its fully automated mission. While referencing popular manga and anime series "Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba," he said in Japanese, "I'm happy to have been able to witness the docking of a privately developed spacecraft. We crew have faced various difficulties, but we've managed to overcome them with 'total concentration.'"

    The 55-year-old was one of the four Japan-U.S. astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon that ferried them to the space station. Noguchi has called the space station home twice before and will do so again for the next six months. During his stay, he will engage in a variety of activities including scientific experiments using the space station's microgravity environment.

    Noguchi previously boarded the U.S. Space Shuttle in 2005 and the Russian spacecraft Soyuz in 2009 and 2010. While the Soyuz was a three-seater, the Crew Dragon can carry up to four astronauts, allowing the space station to be staffed for the first time with a total of seven long-stay crew members.

    "Increasing personnel by one crew member (at the space station) means another 30-plus hours' worth of scientific experiments can be carried out per week," said a representative of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, emphasizing the benefits of sending more crew to the space station.

    (Japanese original by Tomohiro Ikeda and Hisashi Tsukamoto, Science & Environment News Department)

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