Tokyo, Aug. 29 (Jiji Press)–Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi has expressed strong hopes for the private sector’s role in future space exploration.
“We’re at the start of a new age. Various companies will try to conquer space in their own ways,” Noguchi, 56, said in a recent interview.
Noguchi returned to Japan in June after staying at the International Space Station for more than five months. He boarded a Crew Dragon spacecraft of U.S. space business Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, to travel to the ISS.
In July, U.S. companies Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. and Blue Origin succeeded in suborbital space flights, ushering in a new era of space travel.
“Actual trips increase suddenly as soon as the time becomes ripe,” Noguchi said, comparing the current situation to the Age of Discovery between the 15th and 17th centuries. “I guess we’re witnessing the era of private-sector space companies.”
Asked about his possible future job, Noguchi mentioned his dream of becoming a space tour guide.
“I hope there will be a travel agency willing to buy my experiences,” he said. “Social demand (for astronauts) is expected to increase in order to utilize experiences acquired through their careers.”
In the United States, former NASA astronauts work for space companies.
As for the immediate future, Noguchi said he will support junior astronauts and newcomers, set to be recruited in autumn for the first time in 13 years.
“Of course, I’ll try again myself” to be chosen for a space mission, Noguchi stressed.
His flight aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft in November last year marked his third trip to space.
During his stay at the ISS, Noguchi performed his fourth spacewalk, the highest number for a Japanese astronaut.