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Soichi Noguchi
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Press Briefing at JAXAi (2004.1.16)

On January 16, 2004, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Astronaut Noguchi, who was temporarily in Japan, attended the press briefing, at the JAXA information center (JAXAi) in Tokyo. He discussed the training and repair methods that he has been using in order to support the Space Shuttle's safe return to flight.

Astronaut Noguchi JAXAi

Astronaut Noguchi began the conference by presenting his New Year's greetings and the latest news about how he is focusing on training in Houston to prepare for the Space Shuttle's return to flight.

Along with their normal shuttle flight, Astronaut Noguchi introduced the following “three objectives” the crew is aiming for, to enable the first safe return to flight.

  1. Prevent repeating the accident that occurred on the Space Shuttle Colombia.
  2. Inspect to make certain that there is no damage on the orbiter so that they can return safely to the Earth.
  3. Repair any damage found.

With the three objectives in mind as well as implementing the CAIB (Columbia Accident Investigation Board) recommendations, he expressed his determination to prepare for the scheduled return to flight sometime after September.

He also introduced filming training with digital/video cameras by showing the astronauts on the video images and the tile repair training with the KC-135. The filming training was just completed Tuesday,January 13, 2004, and was expected to be an important factor in the “Inspection” during the actual flight. The post-launch images are sent to ground control as soon as possible to find any serious damage to the External Tank. In past flights, the pictures were taken as early as 15 minutes after the launch. For the STS-114 launch, the pictures will be taken 11 minutes immediately after the launch and transmitted to the ground control to allow for more detailed analysis.

During the Question and Answer session that followed, Astronaut Noguchi shared that he would like to complete the role of the seven astronauts who lost their lives on the first anniversary of the Columbia accident by carrying out the flight mission successfully. He also introduced the specific operations such as “demonstration of the thermal protection panel repair,”“Control Moment Gyro (CMG) replacement,” and “attachment of the External Stowage Platform-2,” which are planned in EVA. When asked if he felt any added pressure because of the extra operations, he answered, “I have no extra work since we have three additional crew members (mission specialists). I can now focus on my mission as a primary EVA crew. I feel rather at ease.”

When questioned regarding the new U.S. space policy presented by President Bush the day before, Astronaut Noguchi said, “I'm interested in going to the Moon. After we have successfully achieved the return to flight and the launch of the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo,” I wish I could be a member of the crew on the trip to the moon.”

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