for our e-mail list for updates and socially responsible
1015 18th St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202 429-8900
Fax: 202 429-8905
Space and Security
Careers in Science From the Field
Mr. Masato Koyama is the Director of Japan Aerospace
Exploration Agency (JAXA) in the Washington, DC branch office. He
received his Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering from
Keiou University in Japan.
Mr. Hitoshi Tsuruma is the Deputy Director of JAXA's Washington,
DC office. He received his Bachelor's Degree in Urdu Language
and Literature from the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.
JAXA is an independent institution devoted to space exploration,
from basic research to development and practical applications.
What is your profession?
Mr. Koyama: Director of JAXA
Mr. Tsuruma: Deputy Director of JAXA
What are the responsibilities of your position?
Mr. Koyama: I am responsible for managing JAXA's Washington,
DC office by cooperating with the other three staff members to respond
to the US policy for aerospace, to investigate the movement of the
international aerospace industry, and to communicate with other
institutions like NASA. In addition to that, another mission of
this office is conducting research in order to find beneficial information
for Japan, the United States, and the world.
Mr. Tsuruma: I mainly support the Director of JAXA's Washington,
DC office. My major responsibilities are almost the same kinds of
tasks that Mr. Koyama does--to collect various kinds of information
related to the world aerospace industry, and to communicate with
the headquarters of JAXA in Japan.
Can you describe a typical week in your position?
Mr. Koyama: In this office, there are many types of things to do,
and it is difficult to explain specific tasks. Mainly, I communicate
with the members of JAXA in Japan, and when they come to the US
for their research, I give them a guide of aerospace institutions
located in the Washington, DC area, such as NASA. We basically gather
information about aerospace by attending symposiums, academic institutes,
and workshops related to outer space, and by collaborating with
consulting firms to gather information. For example, I went to Huntsville,
Alabama to participate in the NASA Advisory Council at the Marshall
Space Center a few days ago. We also respond to various questions
from Japanese organizations and the Ministry of Education.
Mr. Tsuruma: My main job is supporting the Director, so it changes
weekly. For example, this week I attended the Science and Space
Committee of Congress Senator House Testimony on Monday and Tuesday
and reported the information, which I relayed to JAXA headquarters
in Japan. I also gave tours with other staff for a JAXA research
group from Japan, visiting international aerospace institutions
such as the Kennedy Space Center and Johnson Space Center.
What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying?
Mr. Koyama: The most satisfying thing is to experience the dynamism
of this fast growing field, aerospace, in an advanced country like
the United States. The Bush Administration announced a new vision
for space exploration on January 14, and I realized that this country
is moving to a new phase of outer space programs. The most challenging
task for me is working in an English-speaking environment when managing
and interacting with other institutions, because my background is
more in technological research. I used to analyze flight simulation
and to perform experiments for space programs in the beginning,
when I first entered JAXA.
Mr. Tsuruma: The most attractive thing is to work in the aerospace
industry, which is unique and the latest frontier of science. Working
in the center of politics in the United States enables me to gain
invaluable experience and to take advantage of the resources of
this international city, Washington, DC. Cooperation with NASA would
be a one example.
What is the greatest benefit of working in this field?
Mr. Koyama: This field, exploring space, is giving dreams to people.
I am really fascinated by being involved in a dream-giving field.
Mr. Tsuruma: The benefit of working in this field would be the rare
opportunity to be involved with one of the biggest state-level projects.
What are the biggest challenges facing your field?
Mr. Koyama: The biggest challenge that Japan has been facing is
that Japan does not have a clear, big-picture purpose for space
development. This is my personal opinion and I think that we, Japan,
should move into the next step of advanced space programs. I strongly
desire that Japan will be capable of launching manned space flights
like the US did in the past. The international community is attempting
to develop joint programs for outer space, like the missions for
the moon and Mars, by monitoring the Bush Administration's
movement, which has a great influence on other nations' programs.
Mr. Tsuruma: As Mr. Koyama said, one of our dreams in this field
would be launching manned space flight to the moon and Mars someday.
Realizing a space trip in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at a low cost of
about $10,000 would be another goal.
What are the skills that are most important for a position
in this field?
Mr. Koyama: Space programs absolutely require diverse technologies,
so I believe that people have to establish their own specialties
individually and collaborate closely. It is very difficult to manage
various resources together to promote space development projects.
For engineers, they must build their own specific skills strongly.
Mr. Tsuruma: I personally believe that a challenge-seeking spirit
and creativity are quite important if you would like to work in
this field. As you may know, space development is beyond the examples
of the past. We are at the leading edge of science. So, you have
to create new things. When we need to negotiate with the UN or NASA
to enact international space law, those two elements are definitely
What kind of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage
someone to gain if s/he is interested in pursuing a career in this
Mr. Koyama: About 10 years ago, when a Japanese Astronaut, Mamoru
Mouri, experimented in outer space for the first time, I was highly
engaged in the development of systems, training programs for astronauts,
management of the experiments, and joint cooperative missions with
NASA. Experiences in such international projects have helped me
a lot in working as the director of this office.
Mr. Tsuruma: Have you ever seen a space shuttle launch? It is very
magnificent, but at the same time it is also a delicate thing because
it can fail due to a small defect in the launch system. If you enter
this dynamic field, you will surely be engaged in this kind of project.
In my experience in Japan before I came to this office, the most
honorable thing was that I was in charge of managing the schedule
of Astronaut Chiaki Mukai when she was going to space. I could experience
the astronaut's entire process from training on land to the
space shuttle launch. It was truly the most invaluable moment I
have ever had when I saw her space flight. I was so moved because
the astronaut was the person whom I was taking care of closely.
What type of education background is required?
Mr. Koyama: As I said before, what you need to do is to establish
your own specialty. For example, Mr. Tsuruma was majoring in Urdu
Language and Literature, which is totally different from aerospace,
in his university. Someday in our future, human beings will be able
to live in outer space, and we will bring everything like culture,
technology, literature and law into space. Therefore, we need specialists
from all kinds of fields to develop outer space. To build an international
space station, we definitely need not only technology, but also
culture to make the most of the station. JAXA, for instance, is
collaborating with universities in order to research space development
from cultural perspectives. We were in the era of launching space
rockets, but now we are in a new era of developing space by using
highly advanced technology. The United States is moving far ahead
of Japan because American people study outer space from various
viewpoints other than science, such as politics and economics. For
example, there is the Space Policy Institute in The George Washington
Mr. Tsuruma: I would like to add to what Mr. Koyama said. Studying
aerospace engineering and material engineering helps you to understand
What are the typical entry-level job titles and functions? What
entry-level jobs are best for learning as much as possible?
When you enter JAXA, the first thing you do is visit our Tanegashima
Space Center and other field centers to understand what JAXA is
doing. In my case, I was engaged in analysis of rocket simulation
because I had studied mechanical engineering. One year after I entered
the National Space Development Agency (NASADA), a predecessor of
JAXA, I had the opportunity to visit the United States to train
in computer software programs for innovated rocket technology.
What are the salary ranges for various levels in this field? Is
there a salary ceiling?
The salary of JAXA basically depends on the rules of National Personnel
Authority of Japan.
What special advice do you have for a student seeking to qualify
for this position?
As we have been saying, all you need to do is to establish your
own specific field, because there is a necessity for a wide variety
of human resources for space development. And also, flexibility
to cope with unknown challenges in the aerospace industry is crucial.
Above all, you need to have an adventurous spirit and always pursue
your dream. Those are key points now that we Japanese need to improve
in our own space projects, by following the Bush Administration's
new space program.
Submitted by: Tomomasa Nagano, spring