Life may offer an unexpected surprise after an epic letdown, but in the case of first-time space voyager Norishige Kanai, it was an out-of-this-world opportunity. As Japan's youngest astronaut, Kanai, 40, is set to undertake a long-duration mission to the International Space Station when he takes off aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft this fall, following his initial heartbreak and nine years of extensive training. Kanai, who was among the 963 applicants for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's astronaut recruitment campaign in 2009, had set aside his dream of traveling to space when he failed the selection test, held only every 10 years or so in Japan, and decided to move on with life. At the time in his seventh year as a Maritime Self-Defense Force doctor responsible for the health of deep-sea divers, Kanai was enjoying his daily lunch break jog at the on-base field when he received a call on his cellphone, which usually signals an emergency. But it was a JAXA officer calling to notify him that he had won a slot as the third and additional astronaut candidate.
ZHEZKAZGAN, KAZAKHSTAN – Three crew members of the International Space Station returned to Earth on Sunday after completing a 5½-month mission, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration said. A Soyuz spacecraft carrying Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, Norishige Kanai of Japan and Scott Tingle of NASA landed in the Kazakhstan countryside around 6:40 p.m., 3½ hours after detaching from the station. The three had been on the orbital laboratory since mid-December, with Shkaplerov, 46, serving as mission commander from February until he turned over command to American Drew Feustel on Saturday. Kanai, a 41-year-old former Maritime Self-Defense Force doctor, drew international attention for claiming on Twitter to have grown 9 cm taller after three weeks at the space station due to the absence of gravity. He later said he had made a measurement mistake and it had only grown 2 cm.
On January 8th, Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai caused some concern when he tweeted that he'd grown about 9 cm (around 3 and a half inches) in his three weeks about the International Space Station. Well, it turns it that's not actually the case. Kanai, who is a tweeted an apology last night, saying that he re-measured himself after the media flurry surrounding his announcement, and he's only grown about 2 cm.