Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi will return to Earth today after a seven-month stay at the International Space Station (ISS) on the Crew Dragon capsule.
In the days leading up to his return, Noguchi reunited with Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide, marking the first time two Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronauts were on the station at the same time. Hoshide will soon become the second Japanese ISS commander, cementing JAXA’s pivotal position in international space missions.
JAXA’s increased presence in space explorations enhanced Japan emergence as a leading space-fairing nation over the past few decades. Capitalizing on its technological expertise, including its niche strength in robots, Japan charted its course into space. It offered its expertise to benefit major initiatives concerning international cooperation, such as the ISS.
Japan, however, has increasingly re-evaluated its peaceful stance towards its space ambitions. Factors including China’s growing space capabilities and doubts surrounding the United States’ ability to fulfil its security commitments have pushed Japan to prioritize national security. Expect Japan to increasingly play an important role in international missions, such as the Crew Dragon, yet pivot towards space weaponization if the security situation worsens, both in East Asia and with the United States.
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