On February 28, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced the selection of two astronaut candidates, Makoto Suwa, 46, a disaster prevention specialist at the World Bank, and Ayu Yoneda, 28, a surgeon at the Japanese Red Cross Medical Center. The two candidates were selected out of 4,127 applicants after a series of exams and will join JAXA on April 1 for two years of training, according to JAXA’s February 28 press release statement.
Ayu Yoneda is the youngest candidate to have been chosen by the space agency and will become the third Japanese woman to go into space, following Chiaki Mukai and Naoko Yamazaki. Once the two candidates are officially certified as astronauts, they will have the opportunity to join missions to the International Space Station and participate in the Artemis program. In 2019, Japan joined the Artemis program with a renewed outlook to lunar and space exploration.
According to media reports, upon learning of JAXA’s decision, Yoneda commented, “I felt a sense of responsibility and calling, which was a very sobering experience, and eventually a sense of gratitude to the people who have supported me thus far.”
In 2018, Ayu Yoneda, then a fifth-year medical student at UTokyo, was selected as a recipient of the FUTI Global Leadership Award to help support her participation in the Clinical Clerkship Program at Harvard Medical School. A report of her experience at the program can be viewed on our website here. Friends of UTokyo is very proud of her achievements and look forward to her future endeavors in space.
Dr. Iwao Ojima, President of FUTI, commented, “This is fantastic news. Our heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Yoneda! The emergence of a ‘Star’ will certainly stimulate many young women pursuing their dreams at the University of Tokyo and beyond!”