JAXA Selects 2 New Candidates for Japan’s Astronaut Corps

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ayu Yoneda, left, attends a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday. On the screen on the right is Makoto Suwa.

Two people have been chosen as new candidates for Japan’s astronaut corps, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced Tuesday.

Makoto Suwa, 46, is a senior disaster risk management specialist at the World Bank, and Ayu Yoneda, 28, is a surgeon at the Japanese Red Cross Medical Center. Both come from Tokyo.

They were selected from among the record 4,127 applicants — a record high — who took JAXA’s recent exam to select astronaut candidates. Suwa is the oldest person ever to pass the exam, and Yoneda is the third woman after Chiaki Mukai, now 70, and Naoko Yamazaki, now 52.

Yoneda will be the youngest active astronaut in Japan if she ultimately joins the JAXA corps.

“I feel a responsibility and a calling that make me motivated and resolute,” Yoneda said at a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday morning.

“Yesterday I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep well,” said Suwa, who attended the press conference remotely.

The recent exam was the sixth JAXA has held in its history. Suwa and Yoneda would bring the number of Japan’s astronauts to 13 if they achieve their ultimate goal. According to JAXA, it is possible the two could participate in moon landings in the future.