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Japan astronaut's fans celebrate shuttle launch

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) June 1, 2008
Japanese space enthusiasts on Sunday celebrated the successful launch of the US shuttle Discovery, carrying the key unit of a Japanese research laboratory to the International Space Station.

At Keio University, the alma mater of Japanese astronaut and Discovery crew members Akihiko Hoshide, about 150 current and former students gathered to watch the shuttle's lift-off live from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

"I've seen films of shuttle departures several times in the past, but this time I'm really moved, as Hoshide, who played rugby on the same team with me, is on board," said 36-year-old Tomohiro Nakayama, as quoted by Jiji Press.

Yoshiki Otsuji, a 10-year-old boy watching the launch with his father Tsunenori, a Keio graduate, said, "I want to become an astronaut myself in the future, studying hard."

Hoshide and six US astronauts are headed to the ISS to install a major part of Japan's Kibo research lab. Hoshide will operate the robotic arm needed for the procedure.

"At last, the departure date has come. I'll do my best and enjoy the mission, with more than 20 years of Japan's dreams on board with me," Hoshide said in a message on the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) website.

"Please keep cheering me up!" he said.

At Keio University, the room erupted in cheers when the shuttle completed its lift-off, with members of the rugby team tossing a ball in celebration, Jiji reported.

"I hope that in the future, experiments to take place in the Kibo lab will contribute to improving our way of lives," said a message posted on the JAXA website posted by "Satoshi".

The first part of the Japanese Kibo lab, a micro-gravity research facility, was installed in March by the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour, which included Japanese astronaut Takao Doi.

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NASA revises shuttle launch schedule
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (UPI) May 27, 2008
The U.S. space agency says it has revised two launch dates for 2008 space shuttle missions.

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