TOKYO — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has launched a campaign to recruit new astronauts for the first time in 13 years, with the aim of outfitting a space station that will orbit the Moon.
The hiring drive launched Nov. 19 significantly eases previous application requirements, eliminating questions about applicants’ academic background or specialization in the arts or sciences.
It is expected that “a small number” of people will be recruited. After the selections are announced around February 2023, the astronauts will undergo training and JAXA plans to involve them in the US Gateway project to build a space station in lunar orbit. They should also participate in activities on the surface of the moon.
When JAXA last hired astronaut hopefuls in 2008, applicants had to have graduated from a four-year college course in the natural sciences or engineering. This time, however, the scope has been widened to encourage more people to apply. It is possible for people who have only obtained a high school diploma to apply, but during the selection process they will take an English exam and they will also be tested in science at the same level as the English test. general employment of the Japanese civil service. A new assessment indicating whether the candidate can express their experiences and achievements to the public will also be added.
Japan’s current seven astronauts are all men, so JAXA will actively recruit women. In the last application process, women made up just 13% of the 963 applicants, but this year the agency aims to increase that ratio to around 30%. JAXA had considered creating a female quota but decided against it, as the final number of recruits will be low.
The minimum qualification to apply is to have at least three years of work experience in the company (those with a master’s degree will be deemed to have already had one year of experience and those with a doctorate three years). Candidates must also be between 149.5 and 190.5 centimeters tall and must have no abnormalities in their corrected vision, or in their color vision or hearing. The height requirement has been lowered from the previous minimum of 158 centimeters due to improvements in spacecraft, making it easier for more women to apply. The requirement to know how to swim 75 meters has also been removed as this can be accomplished with training.
Until now, the human base for Japanese astronaut activities has been the International Space Station, but candidates are now being sought for lunar exploration.
The American human spaceflight program Artemis seeks to land astronauts on the Moon again from 2025. A Japanese astronaut is expected to join the crew of the Gateway station, which is scheduled for construction in 2024. However, the age The average Japanese astronaut is now 52, and there could be a shortage of astronauts from the 2030s when lunar activities are expected to progress. Securing new astronauts has therefore been an urgent task for Japan.
JAXA recruitment campaigns are expected approximately once every five years in the future.
The agency has established a recruitment guidelines site (in Japanese) at https://astro-mission.jaxa.jp/astro_selection/. Applications will be accepted from December 20 this year to March 4 next year. Those selected will join JAXA in April 2022 and certification as astronauts is expected around March 2025.
(Japanese original by Tomohiro Ikeda, Department of Science and Environmental News)