Astronaut Koichi Wakata will become the first Japanese to serve as commander of the International Space Station on March 9, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Tuesday.
A change of command ceremony, which according to JAXA will be broadcast live on the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration website, will see current commander Oleg Kotov of Russia pass on the role to 50-year-old Wakata.
Wakata will hold the post for about two months before he returns to Earth on May 14.
Hakubun Shimomura, Japan's minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, said at a press conference that he is "proud as a Japanese person" that Wakata is taking the post. "It will give Japan a great boost."
Wakata departed on his current mission on Nov. 7 aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan. It is his fourth trip to space and his second extended stay on the ISS.