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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The First Japanese Woman In Space

With U.S. Astronaut Sally Ride recently passing away (d. July 23, 2012)—she was the first American woman in space—it got me wondering just who the first Japanese woman was in space.

Chances are I could have said 'any number of my ex-girlfriends', but let's keep it to the professionals... no... that will still not disqualify some of my ex-girlfriends... let's just say professional Japanese astronauts.

The honor goes to Mukai Chiaki (surname first).

Mukai, along with Doi Takao and Mohri Mamoru (both surname first) were chosen back in 1985 to be Japan's first astronauts... and just so you all know... the other two (Doi and Mohri) are men.

Doi spent 31 days-19 hours-and 35 minutes in space. Mohri spent 19 days-04 hours-and 9 minutes in space.

Mukai... she spent 23 days-15 hours-and 39 minutes in space.

Time in space is the astronaut equivalence of who's got the biggest penis. Mukai is playing with the big the boys.

Born on May 6, 1952 in Tatebaya-shi, Gunma-ken, Mukai was an assistant professor in the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery in Keio University.

But... despite the sexist title of being the first Japanese woman in space, she is actually the first Japanese astronaut to go into space twice. Man or woman.

That's frickin' awesome. Actually, I was already impressed with her cardio workout.

Mukai's two flights were aboard NASA's Space Shuttle missions.

  1. STS-65, Space Shuttle Columbia, July 8-23, 1994. This was a Spacelab mission to conduct  research in a microgravity environ. She was the Payload Specialist.
  2. STS-95, Space Shuttle Discovery, October 29 - November 7, 1998. She was the Payload Specialist #1. The flight was more famous because of who Payload Specialist #2 was: John Glenn (US Senator John H. Glenn Jr.), who had the right stuff to become the oldest person to fly in space (77-years-old), after being the third human and first American to orbit Earth (after Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov).  
Let me tell you, after John Glenn, no one on the planet knew or cared who was on that flight - except the true science geeks. I should mention, however, that on STS-95, Mission Specialist #1 Pedro Duque was the first person from Spain to fly in space.

While I don't know her blood type, she is married and is interested in: skiing, bass fishing, scuba diving, tennis, golf, photography, American literature and traveling. Damn... she sounds like she is retired!

In 2007, Fuji Television in Japan created a special episode on the life of Mukai on its program "A Woman's Biography".

Andrew Joseph