TOKYO (AP) _ Japan has chosen a female astronaut to board the space shuttle Atlantis in 2010, the country's first mother to go on a space mission, officials said Tuesday. Naoko Yamazaki, 37, is set to lift off for a two-week flight as a Japanese crew member of the Atlantis sometime after mid-February 2010, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said in a statement.
Yamazaki, the mother of a 6-year-old daughter, is the second Japanese woman to go into space after Chiaki Mukai in 1994 and 1998. She will be Japan's eighth astronaut in space.
During the mission, the Atlantis is to carry equipment and materials for the International Space Station, and Yamazaki will be responsible for operating a robotic arm, JAXA said. Yamazaki joined the country's space agency in 1996 after studying aerospace engineering at the University of Tokyo, Japan's top university.
Dressed in a blue JAXA uniform, she told a news conference that she was a big fan of space adventure animation on TV as a child and space flight has been her lifetime dream. "Now my daughter is beginning to understand space and space shuttles.
She told me 'Mom, you're going to be the one to fly on that! I'm very happy,'" Yamazaki said. "I'm hoping to convey the wonders of space to many people, particularly children.
" After about a decade of construction, the international space station, a project that involves Japan, the U.S., Russia, Canada and European countries, is set to be complete in 2010. Yamazaki said there have been times when she struggled to balance child-rearing and work, but her commitment to the space mission was unshaken.
And she has got a helping hand. "During the two-week flight, my husband is going to take care of all housework," she said.
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