Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of The Asahi Shimbun.
November 25, 2021 at 13:00 JST
Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide carries out a mission outside the International Space Station in 2012. (Provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)
"It's not rocket science" is an idiom for something that's easy to do or understand.
The reference to rocket science implies that anyone working in the space industry must possess specialized skills and be highly intelligent.
Astronauts are the ultimate example. Only the best and the brightest can qualify.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) recently announced it is reviving its astronaut selection test after a 13-year hiatus. And this time, JAXA says, anyone can apply, irrespective of their educational background and even if they do not have working experience in any specialized field.
But candidates must be capable of self-discipline and action in extreme circumstances, and be good international team players who can also assert leadership.
It is in hopes of recruiting such personnel that JAXA is lowering the bar and casting its net wider, so to speak.
I am sure many people are now thinking of seizing this opportunity.
Takashi Uchiyama, who applied for the last test in 2008, studied aerospace technology in university and was working at JAXA at the time. He was one of the 10 finalists in the test and wrote about his experience in a book titled "Uchu Hikoshi Senbatsu Shiken" (Astronaut selection test).
In addition to tests in language and athletic aptitudes, he also had to build a robot in a group effort and fold an origami "senbazuru" paper crane. It appears these tests were for evaluating his cooperativeness and patience.
Even though the next test will be open to anyone, the selection process will obviously be as stringent as before.
Uchiyama ultimately didn't pass the test, but he wrote: "There is value in failing after trying in all earnestness."
And while his dream of becoming an astronaut ended, his dream of advancing Japan's manned space development has blossomed.
No matter how unfamiliar one may be with space engineering, any space-related news is still exciting.
We are born with infinite curiosity, and the astronaut selection test is for choosing our representative.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 25
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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