DUBAI: Japanese astronaut NAOKO Yamazaki is the first woman as part of Japanese Mission Specialist to fly into space.
In 2010, Yamazaki was assigned to the STS-131 mission, which involved the operation of the Space Shuttle, including its robotic arm. “It presented an opportunity to pave the road for the next generation of astronauts,” she told Arab News Japan.
“I think I was selected for this mission in part because of the fabulous achievements of previous Japanese astronauts,” Yamazaki explained. “I appreciated a chance to lead the mission I was part of to success, and to make it easier for the next person.”
The astronaut said she has always had a passion for space. Growing up in Japan’s northernmost island Hokkaido, Yamazaki discovered her fascination with stars and planets.
“It wasn’t until I witnessed the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 on TV — I was 15 at the time — that I considered a career in space,” she added. “I thought about the professionals who had worked tirelessly to support the Challenger crew from the ground. That’s when I first thought that I wanted to become a part of future space programs.”
Yamazaki said that as a woman in space, she felt that space taught her “equality, acceptance, resilience and patience.”
“In space, we all have the same mission and goal to survive and to succeed. Understanding each other and building unity is essential,” she said.
The Japanese astronaut was appointed as an Ambassador of the Japan Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. “As an ambassador, I would like to further develop this relationship for the future,” Yamazaki told Arab News Japan.
She has so far visited the UAE three times and has worked on promoting the exchange of technology and human resources.
Yamazaki is also a council member of the Earthshot Prize, launched by the UK’s Prince William.
“I would like to spread optimism of hope for humanity,” she said, adding that she witnessed the power of human beings after staying onboard the International Space Station and watching the beauty and nature of planet Earth.