TORRANCE — El Camino College welcomes Japanese astronaut Dr. Koichi Wakata to Space Science Day 2015, scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, at the college’s planetarium and science classrooms.

Sponsored by El Camino College and American Honda Motor Co. Inc., and coordinated by the El Camino College Astronaut Ellison Onizuka Memorial Committee, the event is dedicated to Ellison Onizuka, a space shuttle Challenger astronaut who perished along with six other crew members during the tragic events of 1986. It is free and open to serious-minded science students in grades five through 12.

Koichi Wakata
Koichi Wakata

Wakata was born in 1963, in Saitama. He received a B.S. in aeronautical engineering in 1987, an M.S. in applied mechanics in 1989, and a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2004, all from Kyushu University.

In January 1996, Wakata flew as the first Japanese mission specialist on STS-72 and performed several tasks, including robotics operations for the retrieval of the Japanese Space Flyer Unit satellite, for the deployment and retrieval of the NASA OAST Flyer satellite, and for the support of the spacewalks.

In October 2000, he became the first Japanese astronaut to work on the ISS assembly on STS-92, during which he was responsible for the robotics operations to install the Z-1 Truss and Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 to the ISS as well as to support the spacewalks.

From March to July 2009, Wakata flew as the first resident ISS crew member from Japan and served as a flight engineer and the JAXA science officer on the crews of Expeditions 18, 19 and 20 as well as a mission specialist on STS-119 and STS-127 (2J/A).

His duties during the four-and-a-half-month flight included the installation of the S6 Truss, the final assembly of Japan’s Kibo experiment module, a variety of experiment operation in science, engineering, art, and education, as well as ISS systems operations and maintenance.

In addition, Wakata operated all of the current human space robotics systems — Canadarm on the shuttle, Canadarm2, Dextre, and Kibo’s robotic arm on the ISS. He became the first Japanese astronaut to fly aboard Soyuz TMA spacecraft on orbit.

In February 2011, he was assigned as a flight engineer for ISS Expedition 38 and commander of Expedition 39.

Between Nov. 7, 2013 and May 14, 2014 (Japan time), Wakata stayed on the ISS as an Expedition 38/39 crew member. On March 9, 2014, he assumed command of the station’s Expedition 39, and became the first Japanese ISS commander.

He has accumulated 347 days, 8 hours and 33 minutes in space spanning four missions, setting a record in Japanese human space flight history for the longest stay in space.

Wakata will make a presentation to students, who will also join classroom activities and demonstrations led by El Camino College professors, students, and guests from JPL and other institutions.

Students will also have the opportunity to participate in a variety of hands-on science activities and experiments, including the traditional Egg Drop Competition, where students attempt to build the perfect apparatus that will let an egg drop from a rooftop without breaking when it lands.

For reservations or more information, call (310) 660-3487 or email

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