Astronaut Wakata Hopes More Japanese Will Follow Him As Commander

Astronaut Wakata hopes more Japanese will follow him as commanderAstronaut Koichi Wakata, the first Japanese commander of the International Space Station, said Tuesday that he hopes more Japanese astronauts will follow him in becoming the head of the space station.

"I'd like to try to help produce a second and third commander" from Japan, Wakata said at his first press conference in Japan since returning from a six-month mission in May.

The ISS commanders have been selected mostly from the United States and Russia as the two countries are leading the project. But some station skippers have also come from Canada and Europe.

In his fourth trip to space from last November, the 39th ISS commander stayed on the station for 188 days, the longest stay by a Japanese astronaut in a single voyage, bringing his total time in space to 348 days. That was also the longest for a Japanese astronaut, outstripping Soichi Noguchi's 177 days.

Wakata said he focused on having good communication with station and ground crews as the most important thing while he was serving as commander in the last two months of his six-month stay.

Even so, he said he felt "the gravity of his mission," as some duties were difficult to pursue smoothly, such as the arrangement of station crewmembers' work schedules for weekends.

Wakata, 50, said he is eager to work in space again, adding that he still has some extravehicular activity from his last mission that remains to be finished.

He read electronic books and listened to music in his spare time on the ISS, including a traditional Japanese nursery song that the children at his old school sang for him from Earth, he said.