Japanese Astronaut To Lead International Space Station

April 6, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. take charge /ˈteɪkˈtʃɑrdʒ/ (idiom) – to become in control of something
Example: The assistant takes charge of the tasks when the commander is absent.

2. board /bɔrd/ (v.) – to enter a vehicle such as an aircraft, a ship, or a train
Example: The passengers boarded the train for Tokyo.

3. milestone /ˈmaɪlˌstoʊn/ (n.) – an important event in someone’s life or in the development of something
Example: His first flight to outer space sets a new milestone in his country’s history.

4. tap /tæp/ (v.) – to select someone for an important task or job position
Example: The board of directors tapped the young manager to lead the latest project.

5. meet expectations /mit ˌɛkhttp://static.sfdict.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.pngspɛkˈteɪhttp://static.sfdict.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.pngʃəns/ (idiom) – to do or achieve what people expect
Example: The new employee has met the expectations set by his supervisor. 


Read the text below.
Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata has been tapped to head the International Space Station (ISS), the first for a Japanese astronaut.

The 50-year-old astronaut is currently on a six-month assignment, which began in November. This March, Wakata replaced the outgoing Russian commander Oleg Kotov [o-leg ko-tov]. He will take charge of the station for the remaining two months.

Since the first Japanese astronaut boarded a space shuttle in 1992, eight astronauts from Japan have gone to outer space. Wakata’s appointment as the first Japanese ISS head is the latest milestone for the country’s space development program.

As the ISS commander, Wakata will represent the station to the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and officials from other nations. He will also be in charge of the safety of his fellow astronauts. In a recent communication with Earth, he said that he intends to establish a good relationship with his five crew members to help improve their skills.

In choosing an ISS commander, space agencies from Japan, Canada, Europe, Russia, and the United States hold conferences to select a suitable candidate. Since NASA is in the U.S., the country plays a huge role in the selection process.

Wakata’s selection as the 33rd ISS commander was decided during the space agencies’ meeting in 2011. Executive director Yoshiyuki Hasegawa of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said he was able to meet the expectations of the selecting committee, who found his technical expertise and administrative experience quite impressive.

For years, JAXA has been sending many Japanese astronaut trainees to NASA. Wakata is one of those who spearheaded this effort.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What do you think of Wakata’s appointment as the first Japanese ISS commander?
·         If you were Wakata, how would you feel after being appointed as the first Japanese ISS commander?

Discussion B

·         Why is space exploration important?
·         If given the chance to participate in a space exploration, what would you like to discover? Please explain your answer.


April 6, 2014