Astronaut Koichi Wakata, the first Japanese captain of the International Space Station, returned to Earth on Wednesday after completing a six-month mission.
Wakata, 50, landed in Kazakhstan aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft after handing his duties as ISS commander to US astronaut Steven Swanson.
He served as the station’s skipper for 66 days.
Wakata is the first Asian to head the station, where he worked with five other astronauts from the United States and Russia.
In a ceremony marking the transfer of commandership, Wakata gathered at the Japanese science laboratory module Kibo with the five other crew members.
“I had an honor of serving you as commander, which was an incredible opportunity for me to expand my knowledge and experience in managing this complex outpost of humans in space and I couldn’t have done this job without the superb performance of my fellow crew mates and (our) great teamwork,” said Wakata at the ceremony.
It was Wakata’s fourth trip to space, where he spent 188 days. It was the longest stay by a Japanese astronaut in a single voyage, surpassing the 167 days spent by Satoshi Furukawa.
Wakata’s total time in space across his four trips has reached 348 days, also the longest for a Japanese and followed by Soichi Noguchi’s 177 days.