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Soichi Noguchi
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Press Conference after STS-114 Mission (2005.8.23)

After the return of Astronaut Noguchi on August 9, a press conference was held from 0800 to 0830 on August 23, 2005.

【Debriefing by Astronaut Noguchi】

First, Astronaut Noguchi reported on his return.


Noguchi: Good morning, everyone.Thank you for coming so early this morning.The mission ended successfully two weeks ago, on August 9.This mission encountered many problems prior to launch However, the mission control team on the ground, along with us, the crew of astronauts, worked together to resolve the problems, and realized a great achievement in the end.

I believe some people were very busy due to the delays in the launch and changes in the landing site.I wish to thank Japan for the warm support that we’ve received .I believe this mission has provided many meaningful results for Japan as well.

The two and a half years since the Columbia Accident, and the four years of training, have been a really long time for me, too.There is a saying that, "a tall mountain looks taller as you climb it."There were times I became frustrated and felt that as the launch dates got closer, the barrier between the launch and me grew taller.

Of course, there was frustration in not knowing whether my long-sought dreams would come true. I also felt that it would be such a waste if we didn’t get the opportunity to demonstrate our ability, since we are such a great crew and had received quality training.

I managed to get here due to my desire to cross the goal line and due to the support from an organization named JAXA.They, the entire organization, have literally supported me, so that I could concentrate on this mission.

I would sincerely like to grade myself a perfect score, 100 out of 100.Four years of training and two and a half years of agony after the Columbia Accident are completely and cleanly finished.

Prior to the launch, Astronaut Wakata told me "to do as I wish."With the splendid stage of Discovery and the ISS, I am satisfied that I did as I wished.The EVA left a strong impression on me.I can never forget the beauty of the blue Earth that I saw in front of my eyes as I climbed out of the hatch for the very first time.

At the same time, it was an interesting experience, as I floated in the nothingness of space.The lives of billions of people who live on the Earth also left an impression in my mind when I saw our blue planet.I believe that a manned space flight should never forget the people on the ground.

It is nearly two weeks since we returned, and we have been busy with one technical debriefing after another.Since this is the first flight in two and a half years, there is a strong desire within NASA to absorb the various results, key points, and highlights from this flight that could be passed on to the next flight.

Also, there is a strong desire to build on the results of this flight and pass it on to the next Space Shuttle flight, STS-121, which is planned for next March.

I myself wish to use the experience from this mission to build on for the future of Japan’s manned space exploration.

Hereafter, I will use what I have learned and experienced to support other Japanese astronauts, who are waiting for the next space flight opportunity.At the same time, I would like to convey my flight experience to the three ISS astronauts, Mr. Furukawa, Mr. Hoshide, and Ms. Yamazaki, who are in the midst of their rookie training in Houston, and to support them so that they will be able to travel to space sooner, even by just one day.

Finally, I would like to talk about the Rocket Pencil, since I had no opportunity to talk about it prior to launch.As you know, this year is the 50th anniversary since the first test of the Pencil Rocket.Last spring, I consulted with Astronaut Mohri and Chief Executive Officer Matokawa on whether there was anything I could do to create a greater awareness of the special significance of the rocket to the public.The idea of taking the rocket with me during the flight, finding the actual rocket, launching with it on the Space Shuttle's return to flight, and taking it to the ISS, was born.There was little preparation time for this, but everything went smoothly.The rocket was delivered to NASA at the last moment, June I believe, to be part of the payload.As I said during the mission, "this rocket has taken a long time to finally reach space". This is the return to flight for the rocket as well.I also talked about the importance of endurance to achieve a dream.One additional thing that interested me is that, dreams can come true in unexpected ways.If the Columbia Accident hadn't occurred and if I had been launched in 2003 as first planned, I would not have taken the rocket with me.And, if the three organizations the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), and the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) had not merged into a single organization that is now JAXA, the rocket may not have been delivered to me in such a short period of time.

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I was born ten years after the test of the Pencil Rocket. As a student, I was studying with NAL.I joined NASDA as an Astronaut and I have trained everyday for ten years.Now, I had the important role of taking the Pencil Rocket, which has a historical significance for ISAS, and I was very honored.I would like to explain the meaning of the Pencil Rocket to the younger generations who, in the future, will further advance the fifty years of Japanese space exploration.

This concludes my remarks.I am looking forward to returning to Japan again soon.And I would like to tell everyone about my experiences from the mission and the ideals of Japan's future space exploration.


【Question and Answer session with the media】

The Question and Answer session was next.

Q. Many events took place at Chigasaki, involving its citizens, such as, on the occasion of the launch and landing, and the illuminating of Eboshi-iwa, to support Astronaut Noguchi.Could you feel their support efforts while in space?

A. I am so delighted to have been supported by the citizens of Chigasaki in so many ways.The events, such as the illumination, turning off the lights in the city, and receiving several encouraging emails from Mayor Hattori, all really encouraged me.

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Images of the city of Chigasaki, as taken by Astronaut Noguchi
High Resolution

The SagamiBay and the city of Chigasaki were clearly visible from space.I have sent some images from space.I had said, "I can see Eboshi-iwa with the eyes in my mind,” but when the images were enlarged, you could actually see the rock.In that way, your hearts and the presence of the city of Chigasaki were reaching towards space.

Q. You are talking about being busy with technical debriefings.Specifically, about what and what kind of results are parts of your debriefings?Also, do you have any plans for the summer vacation or for spending time with your family in the future?

A. First, about the debriefing.I've provided debriefings on the EVA and Photo/TV equipment, which I was responsible for.Fortunately, the EVA went well for all three excursions.We are now discussing how to enhance the preparations for the next mission and focusing on what to do during training if they are to conduct the same tasks again.

There are opportunities to speak directly with the astronauts assigned to the next mission.My main objective is to inform the instructors and the members of the mission control center how the astronauts in orbit comprehended the instructions given to them.Also, how to execute it, so there won't be any misunderstanding.

The kid's summer vacation is over in the US, and they have already returned to school.I also have more debriefings to do.So, the key point is how to enjoy the weekends with my children.

Q. You said you were deeply inspired with the realization that many millions of people are living on the Earth.Specifically, what is your image of the "people on the Earth" and what kinds of people were you thinking about, like your family or Africans when you were flying over Africa?Many things have happened on the ground, such as the suicide bombings in London.What were you thinking about?And I have one more question.The delay in landing, due to the weather, gave you one extra day, allowing you to have some extra time to relax.How did you enjoy your stay in space during this time?Those are my two questions.

A. During the EVA, even though it was a busy task, I had the opportunity to watch the Earth while being transported on the robotic arm. Prior to launch, I was expecting to see and enjoy the beautiful Earth and the star laden sky.However, I did not anticipate thinking about the ordinary people living on the earth.I was just observing like any other person.The thoughts about the people living in Africa and in the deep forests of Siberia, the places I am highly unlikely to visit, came unexpectedly to mind, and it was quite bewildering and a surprising discovery that I had.Since it happened unexpectedly, it left a strong impression with me.My interest was in what kind of life the people there have.

The day we could not land was FD 14, or the 14th day of the flight.There were two opportunities for landing at the KennedySpaceCenter that day.But unfortunately, the decision was No-go.For some time after that decision, we spent our time rearranging, or setting up the equipment that we had previously stowed away for landing, so as to spend another day in space.After that, it was a really relaxing time, to such an extent that we felt that we should apologize to the busy people on the ground.We glued ourselves to the windows to observe the aurora. And, we observed a really beautiful aurora as we passed over the southern part of New Zealand.We shared our remaining food at the shuttle's Middeck.It sounds like the last day of summer camp, and we had a very relaxed time.

Q. What is your understanding of the Shuttle's launch planned for next March?

A. NASA has not changed its policy that both STS-114 and STS-121 are test flights.So, I would like to see the results from this flight passed on to the STS-121, including the loss of a piece of the ET PAL ramp.We would like to cooperate together in eliminating the problems, one by one, while preparing for STS-121.

Q. Will you tell us about what you experienced with your five senses, such as, sound, touch, smell, and coldness and heat that was transmitted to your skin during the EVA?

A. You mean the five senses during the EVA.During the training on the ground, you can never experience the day-night cycle, which is the cycle of day and night every forty-five minutes.I had a really strong impression that I sensed the cycle with a sixth sense rather than with the five senses.Let me explain more clearly.When the time is moving from night to morning, there is a sunrise, even in space, and the temperature rises quickly.The space suit shields me and maintains a constant temperature inside. But when the daybreak becomes noon, the total darkness turns into the brightness of noon, in just a matter of two or three minutes.When the time changes to daytime, I lower the visor and lower the suit temperature, not as part of the process but rather as a reflex of my body.It was quite interesting in that, it was my body’s natural response to lower the temperature because it was getting hot and to lower the visor because it was getting too bright.Conversely, when the daytime was changing to nighttime, there was a tingling of the sixth sense that the darkness was assaulting me.That tingling lead to the process of turning on the heater and lights.I really thought it was interesting that my body, by itself, could anticipate those things.Unfortunately, smelling and hearing were hindered since space is without air.But, I thought maybe, it was the force from the sunlight or the heat that foreshadowed the changes in the temperature.

Q. This has nothing to do with the mission, but the nationwide election is generating a great many issues in Japan.Established people from many different walks of life have been asked to run for this election by the different parties.Those new candidates are known as shikaku, or assassin.The term shikaku has become a fad word.Have you been asked to run for this election?

A. No.I am not familiar with Japanese election issues, but I am planning to do my utmost in supporting the other Japanese Astronauts who are waiting for their upcoming flights.

Q. Related to the last question, if you have any suggestions for the politicians and Japanese people, from the perspective of space exploration for them to consider on certain issues, could you please tell us.

A. Just as I had stated during the mission, I would like to establish a desire for space exploration amongst the Japanese children.Also, I would like to ask the politicians to consider, from many perspectives, the benefits of sending human beings to space and how it would ultimately effect the development of the Japanese youths, and their capabilities, such as by questioning adults on how Japan's space exploration should progress from a familiar point of view, such as, "When the children grow up, what kind of summer vacation would they have in space?"

Q. Since this was the first flight of the Shuttle's return, this must have been a very significant event for the US.After about two weeks, what is your recollection on how you perceived the magnitude and the meaning of your participation?

A. Recalling it, after two weeks, it was quite a mission.I believe it has become an unforgettable fifteen days.Various people had supported me. NASA was truly staking its prestige as an organization on this flight.The entire organization of JAXA was providing their sincerest efforts towards the success of the mission.I can fully appreciate all of these efforts.I was there, participating in the mission, as a Japanese.Not only that, but I was given an important task and I was able to demonstrate my ability during the mission.It was more than one could ask for as an astronaut.

Q. You said you would evaluate the mission as 100 out of 100, a perfect score.After two weeks, when you look back on the mission, is there anything you wish you’d pass on the next time, even if the flight were still 100 out of 100.

A. Right now, even while I am looking back on it, I truly believe I have done everything.100 out of 100 meant I had accomplished 100% of what I had planned to do prior to the flight.Also, when I had some unexpected free time during the mission, I could downlink the video of my activities in space, as an educational video.I had not planned on making the video prior to launch, but since I had some extra time, I received permission from Commander Collins and made it.Including those extra tasks, I have accomplished everything I sought to do, and I’m finished with everything.

Q. As you are wearing it right now on the left side of your chest, I believe all of the crew members were wearing the nametag with Eboshi-iwa.How did they feel about the nametag when they first received it, and how did they feel while wearing the tag?

A. A friend from Chigasaki's Boy Scouts sent me this nametag.He made the nametag, not only for me, but also for the rest of my seven fellow crew members.When I gave the tags to the crew, they were really delighted.Even NASA often wouldn't put a nametag and a mission patch together.They also loved the fact that the Boy Scouts made it.The design is good.The way the Space Shuttle is ascending is nice.I thought asking them to wear the tags to any NASA related events would be too much, but they said they loved it and wore them when we arrived at the KennedySpaceCenter.They really loved the nametag.

Q. You said you've done everything.You have waited for this day for nine years, and it is all over now.You have done everything you wanted.What will drive you the most in the future?

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A. What I am thinking about right now is that, I have been standing at the very front of the stage for the past four years, especially for the past two and a half years, and many people have been supporting and propping me up.Now, I want to exit from this stage and support the next Japanese Astronaut.Other than that, I want to return what I have received and gained from the mission.Those things will drive me for a while, for the foreseeable future.

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