The Star Wars saga, the movie Apollo 13 and plenty of space books planted the seed for Takuya Onishi to become an astronaut. He was 40 years old when he first visited the International Space Station in 2016.  The astronaut from the Japan’s space agency JAXA spent nearly four months in orbit.

Takuya became the first Japanese to capture the Cygnus spacecraft in space with the Station’s robotic arm, and is an ‘aquanaut’ following his participation in NASA’s underwater NEEMO expedition.

“Doing something new is always very challenging and exciting,” says Takuya. “CAVES gives me the opportunity to enhance my skills, especially the non-technical type, such as leadership and decision-making,” he adds.

JAXA astronaut Takuya Onishi on the International Space Station in 2016. Credits: NASA

During his stay on the Space Station he learned how to live in isolation, with limited human interactions and in close cooperation with Russian and American colleagues. “The cave experience deep underground as part of an international group strikes me as something very similar to space,” comments Takuya.

Before entering the cave, the Japanese astronaut has three goals in his mind: safety, team bonding and science. His background as a commercial pilot could prove useful when it comes to teamwork and safety procedures. And he has been interested in science since he was a child.

JAXA astronaut Takuya Onishi. Credits: NASA

“As a kid, I just had this image of a scientist with a laboratory flask in his hand, and I always thought that I would be that when I grew up,” he admits.

Takuya believes that “mankind cannot lose the spirit of enquiry. And just like in space, in caves there is still so much that is untouched. Both are fascinating and intriguing worlds.” 

Find out more about Takuya in his official biography.