Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi to leave JAXA

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Soichi Noguchi waves after a press conference in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Wednesday.

Astronaut Soichi Noguchi announced Wednesday that he will leave the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on June 1.

At a press conference in Tokyo on the same day, the seasoned 57-year-old astronaut stated his intention to make way for the next generation of astronauts and focus on work at research institutes and such.

Regarding the possibility of going into space again as space travel opportunities become more accessible for private citizens, Noguchi said with a smile, “It’s about 50-50.”

As for the reason why he chose to retire from JAXA, Noguchi said, “I made the decision to make way for junior astronauts waiting to board and prospective astronauts for whom the selection process has begun.”

Noguchi’s activities have already expanded, including serving as a project professor at the University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology.

“I hope I can help train the next generation of astronauts,” he said. “I also want to share my experience with organizations and companies taking aim at space.”

Noguchi was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1996 and has gone into space three times. He was the first Japanese astronaut to board the new U.S. commercial spacecraft Crew Dragon during a round trip to the International Space Station (ISS) from 2020 to 2021. Noguchi stayed on the ISS for a total of 335 days, 17 hours and 56 minutes, the longest stay recorded by a Japanese astronaut. He is the fifth astronaut to leave JAXA, bringing the total number of JAXA astronauts to six after his departure.