Japanese astronaut Wakata returns from space

Japanese astronaut Wakata returns from space
Astronaut Koichi Wakata speaks on the phone after landing near Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday.

NEAR DZHEZKAZGAN - Kazakhstan-Astronaut Koichi Wakata, the first Japanese commander of the International Space Station, returned to Earth aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft on Wednesday, wrapping up a six-month mission.

At 10:58 a.m. Japan time on Wednesday, Wakata, 50, landed safely in Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz capsule. "I completed my duties thanks to great teamwork with astronauts from other countries," Wakata said after he was carried out of the capsule and given health checkups. He appeared to be in good condition.

Wakata stayed on the ISS for 188 days, surpassing the 167 days spent by Satoshi Furukawa, 50, in 2011 to mark the longest stay in a single trip by a Japanese astronaut.

He stayed about 10 days aboard the US space shuttle twice, and also spent about four months aboard the ISS in 2009. He racked up a total of 348 days across four voyages, including the latest mission on the ISS.

After arriving at the ISS in November last year, Wakata carried out various scientific experiments and released an ultra-compact satellite into space. He served as the 39th skipper, a post he assumed in March, for about two months.

Wakata's motto was to have "the Japanese spirit of harmony, or wa." In this spirit, he supported the tasks carried out by the five other astronauts from the United States and Russia. He also communicated with ground staff.

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