Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away…
Or something like that.
It was actually 1983 and Langdon Hills, Essex – and two friends, Bob and Ben, dreamed of becoming astronauts.
They used to sneak off to the school library in Lincewood Junior School to look at space books. They wrote to NASA. They wrote space stories and they made space project books.
Then one day reality bit, as it tends to, and the dream died. One got embroiled in politics and the other joined the army (no prizes for guessing which I didn’t do!).
However, just at the time that Ben and Bob were dreaming space, Soichi Noguchi was in his penultimate year at Chigasaki-Hokuryo High School, about to study Aeronautical Engineering at Tokyo University. In 1996, while Ben was stepping into Parliament for the first time, Noguchi was selected to train as an astronaut.
Noguchi was later lucky enough to travel to the International Space Station. His official NASA biography is enough to make a Ben or a Bob green with envy:
SPACE FLIGHT EXPERIENCE: STS-114 Discovery (July 26-August 9, 2005) was the Return to Flight mission during which the Shuttle docked with the International Space Station and the crew tested and evaluated new procedures for flight safety and Shuttle inspection and repair techniques. Noguchi served as MS-1 and EV-1 and performed 3 EVAs (spacewalks) totaling 20 hours and 5 minutes. After a 2-week, 5.8 million mile journey in space, the orbiter and its crew of seven astronauts returned to land at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
Noguchi next launched aboard a Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft on December 21, 2009, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, docking with the International Space Station two days later to join Expedition 22 crew. He became the first Japanese to fly on Soyuz as left-seat Flight Engineer. For the next 161 days, Noguchi lived and worked aboard the International Space Station as a Flight Engineer on Expedition 22/23, accomplishing Kibo full configuration assembly complete. The Expedition 23 crew returned to a safe landing in central Kazakhstan on June 2, 2010. In completing this long duration mission, Noguchi logged 163 days in space.
Whilst in space, Noguchi took a series of amazing pictures which he tweeted from the ISS. Below is a selection of some of my favourites.
In the mean time, neither Bob nor Ben have lost their interest in space. Bob assures Ben that he is delaying his visit to Jodrell Bank until Ben can get up there.
And both can take heart from the fact that Soichi Noguchi is at least seven years older than either of them and so there’s time yet for them to get their butts up to the ISS.