A JAXA website showing the agency’s plan to recruit astronaut candidates. Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
A JAXA website showing the agency’s plan to recruit astronaut candidates. Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

SEOUL, South Korea —Japan’s space agency is set to recruit astronaut candidates for the first time in 13 years as part of efforts to support the NASA-led Artemis lunar exploration program. 

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced the recruitment plan Nov. 19, saying successful candidates would be assigned to work long-term at the International Space Station (ISS), the Japanese experiment module “Kibo” attached to ISS, or NASA’s lunar orbit outpost Gateway. JAXA, under an agreement with NASA, is set to provide several capabilities for the Gateway’s International Habitation module (I-Hab), which will provide the heart of Gateway life support capabilities and additional space where crew will live, work, and conduct research during Artemis missions.

“The working area is Earth and space. A business trip without a family to the International Space Station or a long trip to a base on the lunar surface is possible,” JAXA said.

The agency said it would receive applications from Dec. 20 to March 4, 2022. Applicants will go through multiple tests and interviews — including ones evaluating English proficiency, leadership, problem-solving ability and ability to convey experiences of their missions to the public — with final candidates expected to be announced in February 2023, according to JAXA.

According to the agency’s guidelines, applications must be Japanese citizens with normal vision, hearing and color perception, and have a minimum three years of work experience. They also have to be between 149.5 and 190.5 centimeters tall, due to specifications of spacecraft, spacesuit and other factors. Convicted offenders or those associated with extremist groups and parties are not allowed to participate in the competition.

In the past, it was necessary for applicants to have a four-year university degree in the field of natural science, but JAXA has dropped such requirements, according to a NHK report.

JAXA plans to launch a campaign to encourage women to apply, as there are no active female astronauts in Japan. There have been 11 Japanese astronauts so far. Of them, seven men remain in service, with an average age of 52 as of November, according to NHK.

Park Si-soo covers space industries in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. Park worked at The Korea Times — South Korea's leading English language newspaper — from 2007 to 2020. He earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Korea...