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Chiaki Mukai

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Dr. Chiaki Mukai was born on May 6, 1952 in Gunma Prefecture, Japan. She was the first Japanese and first Asian woman in space, as well as the first Japanese astronaut to travel twice to outer space. Dr. Mukai earned her M.D. and Ph.D. in physiology from Keio University School of Medicine and is a board-certified cardiovascular surgeon.

After working for several years as a doctor, Dr. Mukai became an Assistant Professor of the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery at Keio University. In 1985, she was selected by the Japanese national space agency JAXA (formerly NASDA) to work as a Payload Specialist. Dr. Mukai has spent over 566 hours in space as part of the STS-65 and STS-95 missions in 1994 and 1998, respectively.

Dr. Mukai is part of a number of societies including the American Aerospace Medical Association, the Japan Society of Microgravity Applications, the Japanese Society for Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, and the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). She was awarded the highest French award, the Legion of Honor, for her strong contributions to the Japan-France space exploration relationship in 2015.

Dr. Mukai's first space flight was on the STS-65 Columbia, which took place from July 8-23, 1994, and was the second International Microgravity Laboratory (IML) flight. ILM-2, as it was known, consisted of 82 investigations of Space Life Science and Microgravity Science. The mission focused on experiments related to the cardiovascular and autonomic nerve system, as well as bone and muscle metabolism. The entire ILM-2 flight lasted 353 hours and 55 minutes, spanning over 6.1 million miles and completing 236 orbits of the Earth. (NASA)

Her second journey to space, which earned her the title of the first Japanese individual to fly to space twice, was on the STS-95 Discovery. This journey was shorter than her first, lasting 9 days between October 29 and November 7, 1998. During the 213 hour and 14 minute journey, which covered 3.6 million miles, Dr. Mukai and the STS-95 crew contributed to the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope Orbital Systems Test Platform and the Spartan spacecraft, which was used for studying solar wind.

Upon her return to earth, Mukai continued to dedicate herself to space exploration. Starting in 2004, she served as a visiting professor at the International Space University. From 2007 to 2012, she began working for JAXA as the Director of the Space Biomedical Research Office, among other positions and titles. She later became Vice President of the Tokyo University of Science in 2015.


Works Cited

Karlins, A. (2015, August 31). Biography: Chiaki Mukai – Astronaut. The Heroine Collective. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from

Mukai Chiaki astronauts. JAXA Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate. (n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2022, from

NASA. (2003, October). Payload Specialist Astronaut Bio: Chiaki Mukai 10/03. NASA. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from

Project professor Chiaki Mukai's inauguration as vice president of the Tokyo University of Science. Tokyo University of Science. (n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2022, from

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