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Meet the Japanese space agency's first new astronaut recruits in more than a decade

The Japanese space agency (JAXA) has revealed its newest astronaut recruits for more than a decade to the public for the first time.

According to Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, Suwa Makoto and Yoneda Ayu were chosen as the candidates in February 2023.

The examination in which they were selected was held for the first time in 14 years.

The candidates are midway through a basic training course lasting about two years.

Training includes lessons in English and Russian, and piloting small aircraft.

At a press conference at a JAXA facility in Tsukuba City, north of Tokyo, Suwa and Yoneda were shown working out, doing squats and bench presses.

Yoneda told the press that she has renewed her resolve to put all her efforts into the training, with the first anniversary of her selection approaching.

"I felt I had finally become an astronaut candidate after I got the blue JAXA uniform with my name on it," said Yoneda.

Certified astronauts by November

Yoneda is a 28-year-old surgeon at the Japanese Red Cross Medical Center. She’s the youngest candidate to be recruited by the agency.

Suwa is a 46-year-old disaster prevention specialist at the World Bank.

At the press conference, he mentioned the range of programmes he and Yoneda tackle, in fields including science, engineering, and medicine. He said the instructors' enthusiasm makes them all fun.

"I strongly feel support from people around me," Suwa added.

The two trainees are expected to be certified as astronauts as early as November, according to NHK.

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