Japan plans to recruit astronauts in 2021, first time in 13 yrs

By Ye Shan

TOKYO, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- Japan will recruit potential astronauts in 2021, the first time the country has conducted an intake since 2008, Science Minister Koichi Hagiuda said Friday.

The recruitment is aimed at sending the astronauts to outer space as part of a U.S.-led lunar exploration project, the minister said.

"We will solicit applications around every five years from now on to maintain a group of astronauts (in readiness)," Hagiuda said in a press conference.

The Japanese government will start the astronauts' applications around next fall, aiming to have a Japanese national on the Moon for the first time in the latter half of the 2020s, he said.

According to local media reports, seven Japanese astronauts are part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency currently.

When the agency conducted its last astronaut recruitment in 2008, a record 963 people applied for the job and the three men that were selected have already traveled to outer space.

In the near future, 55-year-old veteran astronaut Soichi Noguchi is scheduled to fly to the International Space Station aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft developed by U.S. aerospace manufacturer SpaceX.

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