lundi 17 octobre 2011

Interview de Naoko Yamazaki, astronaute de la JAXA qui a volé à bord de la navette spatiale lors de la mission STS-131

Naoko Yamazaki (née Sumino) est ingénieur(e) aérospatial(e).

Sélectionnée en 1999 par l’Agence Spatiale Japonaise (à l’époque NASDA et aujourd’hui JAXA), elle commence son entrainement pour une mission à bord de l’ISS. Elle termine son entrainement en 2001.

Elle devient la 2ème japonaise sélectionnée comme astronaute.

En 2004, elle suit l’entraînement d’ingénieur de bord pour les vols en Soyouz TMA puis rejoint le centre spatial de Houston de la NASA pour sa formation de Mission Specialist dans le groupe 19 de la NASA.

 En 2008, elle est affectée à la mission STS-131.

Du 5 avril au 20 avril 2010, elle vole donc à bord de la navette Discovery pour cette même mission.

Elle quitte l’Agence Spatiale Japonaise à la fin du mois d’août 2011.

Naoko Yamazaki est mariée et maman d’une petite fille.

Interview réalisée en 2011

Q : How many years were you connected to the space program prior to your flight ?

I was selected as an astronaut candidate in February, 1999. 

Therefore, I was training for 11 years prior the STS-131 mission in April, 2010.

Actually, I started working as a space engineer in 1996. So, I was connected to the space program for 14 years.

Q : How did you feel prior to the flight ?

I was very excited and on cloud nine – very happy at that moment to be waiting for the launch and a little apprehensive since this was my first time, but I was very eager to get to that point.

All the training was done and I felt very ready.

Q : What kinds of sensations did you experienced during take-off ?

After the shuttle took off, it took 8 minutes and 30 seconds for the shuttle to get to orbit and zero gravity.

Therefore, during this time, we were very busy and had to concentrate on the ascent activities.

For the first two minutes, I felt a big vibration from the solid rocket booster.

Once they got separated, it became very smooth. However, for the last one-two minutes, we felt 3-G acceleration. So, we felt heavy and had to breath deeply intentionally.

Q : What does weightlessness feel like, and what did you think about during the flight ?

Fortunately I had no space sickness.

I felt so comfortable immediately after it became weightlessness.

Somehow, it felt very familiar to me, as if my body remembers. 

uring the flight, of course, our bodies change; ex) moon face, chicken legs, and taller height. But we get used to those changes in a couple of days.

Q : What were some of the problems you encountered and how did you fixed them ?

STS-131 lost the Ku-band antenna function at the beginning of the mission.

Therefore, we had to modify the procedures of rendez vous & docking, inspection of the thermal tiles of the shuttle, etc. 

Thanks to the training and the ground team’s real-time efforts, we could manage the situation as a team.

Q : What did you eat, and did it taste real ?

I enjoyed space foods very much.

Once they get hydrated, they taste real and good.

One night, another Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi and I hosted a Japanese dinner (sushi) onboard the ISS. 

The other night, Russian crew members hosted Russian dinner.

Getting together for dinner is one of the biggest fun on orbit.

Q : What was re-entry like ?

Re-entry is a critical phase of the flight as well as the launch.

Therefore, we were busy and had to concentrate on the situation.

As coming closer to the Earth, I felt strong gravity.
It was such a strange feeling. Even a piece of paper felt so heavy !

After the landing, I felt very thirsty. And when I moved my head to the right and to the left, I felt my entire body was rotating in a 90-deg different orientation.  But in about 30 min, my body gradually readapted to the gravity environment.

(Naoko Yamazaki avec le Directeur de la JAXA après son retour sur Terre)
Q : Were you glad to be back on Earth, or did you feel you could have spent the rest of your life up there ?

I felt I could have spent the rest of my life in space.

However at the same time, I was so glad when I came back to the Earth and saw my family.

Also the breeze and the smells of trees & amp; flowers made me so happy, because there was no natural breeze in the spacecraft. I really admire the nature of the Earth.