Interview with Sławosz Uznański, a Project Astronaut at the European Space Agency (ESA)




Interview with Sławosz Uznański, a Project Astronaut at the European Space Agency (ESA)

Aleksandra Czubak (A.C.) – Sławosz, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you! My questions will concern your planned journey to Japan as part of the training programme before your potential space flight for which you are currently preparing. 

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is a key partner for the European Space Agency (ESA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the International Space Station (ISS) project and other space exploration endeavours. 

The Japanese Experiment Module Kibō, aptly named “hope,” serves as a poignant symbol of humanity’s desire for deeper understanding in the realm of space exploration. Kibō is the largest module on the ISS, and astronauts preparing for an ISS mission undergo training at JAXA to familiarise themselves with the operation of this laboratory.

How long will your training in Japan and at JAXA last? 

Sławosz Uznański (S.U.): Based on what I know from the training experience of Marcus Wandt, the first ESA project astronaut who recently completed his mission to the ISS as part of Axiom-3, there is typically one training section in Japan. I anticipate a similar plan for my training. This section usually spans a week, which feels rather brief considering that this will also be my first time in Japan. Nevertheless, I’m hopeful that I will be able to extend my stay by an extra week to indulge in some sightseeing and immerse myself in the rich culture of Japan.

A.C.: I will certainly delve deeper into your Japanese travel plans later in our conversation! A week-long training session sounds incredibly intensive…

S.U.: All the training involved in preparing for the mission is incredibly rigorous. It is not uncommon to find ourselves shuttling between the United States, where a significant portion of the training takes pace, and Japan – often requiring two intercontinental flights. Dealing with the infamous jetlag becomes a part of life during this process.

A.C.: What does such training look like in practice? Are there noticeable differences between training sessions conducted by different space agencies?

S.U.: My training outside of Europe – in Japan and at NASA and SpaceX – is still ahead of me. Nevertheless, I have already had some initial experiences, and I can attest that they are incredibly intense days. Typically, the workday begins at 9 a.m. and concludes at 6 p.m., filled with rigorous intellectual engagement spanning a full 9 to 10 hours.

A.C.: Interest in space exploration, in terms of science, industry, culture and even pop culture, is high in Japan. In Poland, these topics are becoming increasingly popular too – also thanks to your space adventure! Do you believe that your participation in training in Japan, and broader activities related to your potential mission, could enhance relations with JAXA and potentially boost interest in space-related endeavours in Poland?

S.U.: I certainly hope so! Being part of the astronaut corps at the European Space Agency affords us additional, strong opportunities to showcase Poland on the global stage, including in countries like Japan, thus enhancing our international visibility in this context. Building Poland’s international recognition through space-related topics is extremely important – it can be a very effective method of supporting the development of our companies and research institutes in international markets, supporting our Poland’s export. The significance of the Polish space sector is currently growing very strongly. Polish companies are making significant strides in this area and have enormous potential. I hope that in the space sector, we will continue to build further Polish technologies – in cooperation with international partners.

A.C.: Moving on to the topic of new technologies, an increasing number of Polish startups, originating from academia, are developing interesting technological solutions in the space sector and successfully entering the Japanese market. Do you think that this area of Polish R&D has the potential to interest Japanese partners on a larger scale?

S.U.: I think this technological aspect is so significant that it has a truly global dimension, and especially space technologies have that. For example, by placing a satellite in Low Earth Orbit, we can cover 100% of our planet with imagery and immediately gain a global scale, a global market, and access – commercially speaking – to the customers. So, if we use Earth observation satellites and data obtained from programmes such as Copernicus to improve Polish agriculture – what serves as a tested technology that truly adds value to the farmers – then we can scale these tools up to Brazil in South America, Japan, and other Asian countries. Precisely because space technologies cover the entire planet and have a global reach. Here, scalability is incredibly important, especially economically. Developing space technologies is difficult on the first stage – which is to show how much this technology can change and how much value it can build. But once this phase is accomplished, scalability becomes immediately global. Such a model is very interesting economically.

In the field of Earth observation, I believe Poland holds significant potential to emerge as a key player, especially in a synergy with our national IT sector. We can provide data and analyses to benefit our national private and public sectors while simultaneously penetrating international markets, including Japan.

A.C.: When considering Japan’s advancements in science, technology, and the space industry, what achievements do you find most inspiring?

S.U.: Japan serves as an exceptionally inspiring leader in various technological feats, notably within the realm of space technology, particularly evident in its contributions to the International Space Station (ISS). As one of the primary international partners, alongside the United States (NASA), Europe (ESA), Russia (Roscosmos), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Japan holds a pivotal role.

As Europe and ESA, our share of the ISS and allocated time for experiments stands at 8.3%, crucial for advancing scientific and industrial endeavours. In comparison, Japan commands over 12%, representing a notably larger portion than that of the European Space Agency. Japan’s substantial presence on the ISS is epitomised by the Japanese Experiment Module Kibō, a prominent laboratory space complemented by a logistics module for experiment storage. Additionally, Japan’s repertoire includes an external platform facilitating experiments conducted directly in open space. These three modules serve as significant hubs for scientific exploration and innovation.

Europe’s contribution revolves around the Columbus laboratory, located vis-à-vis the Japanese module within the station’s structure. It’s noteworthy that while conducting experiments in Columbus, we have a direct line of sight to our Japanese colleagues engaging in their own scientific pursuits across the station! This spatial arrangement fosters a sense of collaboration and mutual exchange of scientific insights aboard the ISS.

Japan also has its own technological capabilities for sending cargo to the station – HTV spacecraft, named Kounotori (from Japanese “white stork”). So, Japan’s influence on the development and functioning of the ISS is really very significant.

A.C.: If you have the opportunity to spend a few days in Japan just for leisure, what would be on your agenda? Considering your emphasis on physical activity, would you seek out sporting challenges or perhaps explore cultural or recreational pursuits?

S.U.: Absolutely, this is a fascinating topic for me! I’ve actually had the chance to visit Japan on several occasions. Once, I was attending a conference in South Korea, and it felt like a natural step to extend my trip to Japan. However, I don’t think I was fully prepared for the experience at that time. When I travel, I like to interact with people – to get to know their way of life, their culture, and share a piece of who I am with them. That’s why I’ve always been slightly unsure about Japan. Communicatively, it might not be the easiest destination for this type of travel experience. During that expedition, I made the decision to focus on travelling around Southeast Asia. Today, I slightly regret that choice because I didn’t have the opportunity to see Japan… I also once had the chance to go on a ski tour in Japan, skiing being my great passion. But that didn’t work out either. So, the appetite is immense, and I know that Japan is an incredible destination – especially when it comes to the quality of fresh snow and skiing conditions. I’m not sure when my training module could take place, but if it were in winter, I would definitely try to go skiing. And if I were there in spring or summer, I would hope to see cherry blossoms in bloom and explore as much of the country as possible!

A.C.: I hope you will be able to gather as many experiences in Japan – both cosmic and earthly – as possible! Thank you for the interview!


The interview was organised in collaboration with the New Space Foundation (, as part of Sławosz Uznański’s participation in the final gala event of the ISS contest which he initiated – ‘Direction: Space’ ( and also as part of the programme of the Space Week – European City of Science Katowice 2024 (




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