Japanese astronauts Koichi Wakata and Satoshi Furukawa are scheduled for long-term missions on the International Space Station, Japan's science minister Koichi Hagiuda revealed Friday.
Wakata, 57, will begin his stay on the ISS around 2022 and Furukawa, 56, around 2023, he said in a press conference.
"We hope that they will build the future for our country's space development, and give dreams to the people of Japan," he said.
For Wakata, who made his first flight to the ISS aboard a NASA Space Shuttle in 1996, the next mission will be his fifth, while Furukawa's mission to the space station will be his second after his first flight aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2011.
On Tuesday, Soichi Noguchi, 55, and three American astronauts departed for the ISS aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft, commercially developed by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., commonly known as SpaceX.
They will stay at the ISS for six months, conducting scientific experiments while in orbit above the Earth.
Another Japanese astronaut, Akihiko Hoshide, 51, is expected to launch aboard the next Crew Dragon mission to the ISS in the spring to serve as commander, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has said.
JAXA will recruit a group of potential astronauts next fall to send on a lunar exploration project as part of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Artemis program.