Naoko Yamazaki to STS-131; Toradora 15.667

The one and only voice acting astronaut is assigned to fly on STS-131, tentatively scheduled for February 2010. This is an old news, NASA announced the assignments back in November, but I wasn't following closely enough. In fact, I have wrote her off already.

Tangentially, Sumire's career plan seems way off to me. Naoko went to an elite high school, then received BE and MsE from ToDai, which is expected in light of the way Japanese education is stratified. I suspect that Sumire will have a harder time clawing back from America. She's not aiming to become a business executive, but an astronaut. So, she's likely to bet wrong, unless she's nurturing an unconventional plan, like moving to America permanently. Then, she may aim to repeat the steps of Kalpana Chawla (an emigrant astronaut who died in Columbia disaster). If she's adventurous, she may become a pilot for Virgin Galactic or XCOR — but it takes a huge leap of faith to give her enough credit to know what NewSpace is.

Historically, all except one of Japanese Shuttle astronauts are educated in Japan. Here's a list:

Takao Doi: ToDai (he's got PhD from Rice after becoming an astronaut)
Satoshi Furukawa: ToDai
Akihiko Hoshide: Keio U.
Mamoru Mohri: Hokkaido U. and Flinders of Australia
Soichi Noguchi: ToDai
Koichi Wataka: Kyushu U.
Naoko Yamazaki: ToDai

There's also a possibility of Sumire just blowing smoke or not having a plan. In any case she's not taking cues from Naoko.

UPDATE: David Mankins e-mails that Sumire not only aims at, but eventually gets into MIT (there's a hard evidence downstream). The strange Japanese fascination with MIT is not limited to underage teachers, but it's a topic for another post. No, I'm not a bitter Stanford graduate, why?

UPDATE UPDATE: David also sent a link to MIT anime club's page that documents the occurencies and notes:

Given the fictional science focus of many anime titles, it should come as no surprise that MIT is occasionally mentioned in anime. Of course, MIT usually is used to fill the role of "generic non-Japanese source of advanced technology", or "hangout for smart people who didn't manage to get into Tokyo University". But it is rare for any other American college to be mentioned in anime, while MIT's appearances are frequent and widespread.

(since the publication of this post, MIT people included the screencap of Taiga's postcard)