Japanese astronaut Wakata Koichi to retire from JAXA at end of March

The longest-serving astronaut in Japan, Wakata Koichi, will retire from the country's space agency at the end of March.

Wakata, who is 60 years old, was born in what is now Saitama City near Tokyo in 1963.

After working as an engineer for a Japanese airline company, he was chosen as an astronaut candidate in 1992 by the predecessor of JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

In 1996, he boarded the US Space Shuttle for his first space mission. He also took part in space missions in 2000 and 2009. In 2009, he flew as the first Japanese resident of the International Space Station, staying there for about four and half months.

In his fourth space flight from 2013, he flew aboard Russia's Soyuz and became the first Japanese to be the captain of the ISS.

In his fifth space mission from October 2022 to March 2023, he boarded a US private spacecraft, the Crew Dragon, to travel to the ISS. He made his first spacewalk during the stay.

In all, he made five space flights, the most among Japanese astronauts. He stayed in space for a total of 504 days, longer than any of his compatriots.

JAXA says he will speak to reporters on Friday.