Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi is currently on his way to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft with three other crew members.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the early evening of Sunday, November 15, carrying NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Noguchi from Japan’s JAXA space agency.
Upon reaching space tonight, Noguchi became only the third astronaut in history to experience Earth orbit in three different kinds of spacecraft.
In Noguchi’s case, the spacecraft include a 2005 ride aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery for the STS-114 mission, a trip aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-17 in 2009, and Sunday’s mission aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon on the capsule’s first-ever operational flight.
Only NASA astronauts Wally Schirra and John Young have experienced Earth orbit in more than two different types of spacecraft — Schirra on NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules, and Young on Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle launches.
Speaking recently to Spaceflight Now, 55-year-old Noguchi said: “The three different space vehicles also have three different methods of landing. The first one was on a runway, with concrete, the second one was on the ground in Kazakhstan, and this one is in the ocean. So the three different types of landing will make it really interesting.”
Sunday’s launch of the Crew-1 mission has gained much attention for being the first operational crewed flight using SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. It comes three months after the spacecraft’s first successful human test flight to and from the space station with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. The mission was also significant for being the first astronaut launch and landing in U.S. territory since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, once again bringing an end to reliance on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for getting American astronauts into space.
As for Noguchi, he also has another record to his name, in 2005 becoming the first Japanese astronaut to perform a spacewalk at the International Space Station. And at the end of the current six-month mission, his total time spent in space will be longer than any other astronaut from his country.
On top of that, he’s also considered to be the funniest crew member among the current Crew-1 team on its way to the space station tonight.