November 11, 2008

Japan To Send Its First Astronaut Mother Into Space

Japan's space agency announced Tuesday it is set to hit another milestone in sending the country's first astronaut mother into space.

Naoko Yamazaki, mother of a 6-year-old girl, will board Atlantis, set to lift off sometime after February 2010 for a two-week flight, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said.

Atlantis will carry materials to the International Space Station, officials said.

Japanese women are still under-represented in many fields, including business and politics, and only 30 percent of women with children under age 6 are working -- about half the equivalent rate in the United States.

"There have been times when it was hard to balance work and child rearing," Yamazaki, 37, told a news conference.

"My daughter is starting to understand about space and space shuttles... She told me 'Now, you'll be the one to ride that, mummy. I'm very happy'."

Yamazaki joined the National Space Development Agency of Japan (now JAXA) in 1996 and was involved in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) system integration, and specifically assigned developmental tasks.

She attended the ISS Astronaut Basic Training program starting in April 1999 and was certified as an astronaut in September 2001. Since 2001, she has participated in ISS Advanced Training, in addition to supporting the development of the hardware and operation of the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo" and the Centrifuge.


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