Discovery Crew Visits Chigasaki

By Yuki Yanagi (submitted by SFC Schmidt)

News story photo
Photo credit: Yuki Yanagi
Forty U.S. Army Japan Band members lead an open-car parade for Discovery crewmembers in Chigasaki City Oct. 2
The U.S. Army Japan Band led an open-car parade of six Space Shuttle Discovery STS-114 crewmembers on the morning of Oct. 2 in Chigasaki City.

Chigasaki City in Kanagawa Prefecture is where Soichi Noguchi, one of the seven Discovery crewmembers grew up and dreamed of becoming an astronaut.

The parade was held in honor of Noguchi and the other crewmembers’ historic achievement of flying into space after the tragic Columbia accident two years and five months ago.

More than 16,000 people waited to cheer on the homegrown hero and the five crewmembers clad in blue flight suits.

The crewmembers who visited Chigasaki City with Noguchi were Eileen Collins, commander; James Kelly, pilot; Andy Thomas, mission specialist; Charles Camarda, mission specialist; and Steve Robinson, mission specialist.

The Discovery launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida July 26 with one more crew member, Wendy Lawrence, a mission specialist who was unable to attend the parade. After a 15-day flight, they returned to Edwards Air Force Base in California Aug. 9.

Noguchi and Camarda trained in the same astronaut class, and Noguchi and Robinson conducted a first-of-its-kind spacewalking repair mission.

Onlookers packed the roadsides, eagerly waiting to see the Discovery crew members. Some waited for their arrival hours before the parade.

After the parade, Noguchi received the Chigasaki City Honor Award, and other crew members received a memorial plaque and aloha shirt as a memory of Chigasaki City.

The crewmembers said they appreciated the warm welcome.

“Thank you very much for having us with the wonderful parade and ceremony,” said Collins to the audience. “I would like you to know that we had a very successful mission, and we were very lucky to have Soichi Noguchi on the flight. He is very intelligent and very humble, and he has a great sense of humor. Soichi was a wonderful addition to the flight, and he fulfilled his dream of flying into space as we have. And that’s a dream we would like to share with you.”

The USARJ Band is actively involved in local community events, and Chief Warrant Officer Edward Leferink, USARJ Band commander and bandmaster, believes the friendships formed from the exchange of music can be very long lasting.

The USARJ Band members played “American Soldier,” “National Emblem,” “The Army Goes Rolling Along” and “Astro Boy” as they marched.

“Leading the parade at the hometown of the Japanese astronaut and the rest of the shuttle crew was a rare opportunity that humbled me,” said Leferink. “These great people of the shuttle crew are doing that which the rest of us only dream.”

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