5thstar is a webmaster of a group of people who were the semi-final applicants in NASDA's 1995 astronaut selection. (The National Space Development Agency of Japan or NASDA was merged with two other space agencies to become the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency or JAXA in 2003.) Going through medical checks and interviews for an incredible week, those forty-some wannabes were tied with a unique bond of friendship. 5thstar reapplied in 1998, and became one of the eight finalists to experience an extensive psychological group survey in NASDA's isolation chamber for a week. The finalists were also interviewed by honorable astronauts at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He maintains a private blog to advocate space exploration, where he posted English translations of media briefings by JAXA about MUSES-C, a.k.a. Hayabusa, when it touched down on asteroid Itokawa.
The first astronaut selection in Japan took place in 1984. The group of semi-final applicants of this selection is called "PS TOMO NO KAI" (friends of payload specialists). The second was in 1991, and the group is called "MS TOMO NO KAI" (friends of a mission specialist). Then 5thstar in 1995, Issac98 in 1998. This year, two new Japanese astronauts were born, and their friends called themselves "49ers", representing the number of the members.
A quarter century has passed since the beginning of Japanese manned space activities, all of these astronauts' friends met together in Tokyo this April. This was a first of its kind to combine all generations together. In addition to these semi-final applicants were some more applicants and wannabes, combined with a mailing-list called "Astronaut2008".
It was magnetic. Space engineers, air fighter pilots, helicopter pilots, satellite builders, scientists, semiconductor physicists, climbers, doctors, there were all sorts of talented people ranging in age from those who already have retired to the recruit who just joined a space agency. They came from all parts of Japan to celebrate the newly selected astronauts. Koichi Wakata joined in with his message from ISS. A crew from NHK, who filmed the selection process for a documentary, were also there to share this magical moment.
It was touching also. I've been documenting advice on how to be chosen as an astronaut in my private blog. I was amazed to learn that almost all of the new applicants knew about my blog, had read them carefully, and took my advice.
Technologies and new communication tools now unite us together. It is the Space Age 2.0.
Yes, the torch has been passed on...