First of all, thanks to Ibukun, without whom I would be sitting in the lab with no clue that Dr Takao Doi was in the campus giving a talk. Somehow, I missed the email from Maeda Sensei which had information about the event. Anyway, I needed no introduction to Dr Doi. I received the first email from Dr Doi back in 2015. That email was a confirmation email to my PNST fellowship. Without the PNST program, it would have been very difficult for me to come this far, this fast. I like to believe I’m not alone. Dr Doi was the chief of the office of outer space for quite a long time (2009-2016). All of the PNST fellows start their journey in Kyutech after receiving that email. Getting to meet him in my final year of PhD was a surprise. Dr Doi is now a Professor at Kyoto University and his students are building CubeSats. That is the reason for his visit to KyuTech this year.
Dr Doi belongs to the first generation of Japanese Astronauts. He was selected to be an astronaut in 1985 with 2 other Japanese. He was the first Japanese to do a spacewalk. He flew 2 missions in space, STS-87 & STS-123. In his first mission, STS-87 he became the first Japanese to perform a spacewalk. In his second mission, he delivered and set up the KIBO module. Did I mention he has 2 Ph.D. degree and discovered 2 supernovae?!
During the seminar, he showed us a few videos of him taken during his expeditions. Talked about the features of Space Shuttle. Communication and other technical aspects of the space shuttle. The landing speed of the Space Shuttle is about 350 KM/hour. And landing is manual. Apparently, NASA has a rule which says, all space shuttle landing is to be done manually by the space shuttle commander. Also, since it has no propeller, it is a one-shot landing. if you miss the landing, and you are not going to have another chance. I didn’t know the commander of the space shuttle is always a US citizen.
The seminar was a very humbling experience. A man went to space twice and came alive, where some of his colleagues did not. When asked about the biggest challenge of his life, he said it was training and waiting to be selected for a mission. He waited for over 10- years for each mission he went to. That is a lot of time training and waiting. That’s an amazing level of patience. This really brings out the question, or rather ‘the debate’. The people who have paid a lot of money to companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic will also go to space. But can we really call them astronauts??? Sure they will have the training and will experience liftoff and landing in a SpaceCraft. What about the risk and the sacrifices made by people like Dr Takao Doi, who dedicated his entire youth for training and made numerous other sacrifices in his personal life which we may never know? It is nearly impossible to match their level of dedication.
Maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough to take a selfie with Bangladeshi astronaut. The only question is, will I live long enough to do that day???