Guardian of the big blue planet

In 1961, high above a small house in Hokkaido, Japan, Yuri Gagarin looked down from space and admired how beautiful Earth appeared.

A few days later, Mamoru Mohri was in that house watching television reports on Gagarin’s return and heard him describing his unique view of the planet. Aged 13, the boy was hooked.

More than a decade after completing his PhD at Flinders and developing a successful career in nuclear fusion at Hokkaido University, Dr Mohri was shortlisted among Japanese candidates to be sent on a multinational mission into space and underwent psychological testing.

“The psychologist asked me after the tests why I was so relaxed and why I got on with everybody, and I told him about my experience at Flinders,” he said.

“When I went to Australia, I moved into college on campus. There were students from so many cultures and because we were living and studying together, we had to learn to get along.

“That experience was a major factor in me becoming an astronaut.”

As the first Japanese astronaut to participate in NASA missions, Dr Mohri was a little taken aback by his level of fame across Japan. There were countless appearances and interviews, but this public exposure and his experience on a subsequent mission only convinced him further that a new terrestrial mission awaited – to drive greater public interest and knowledge about science.

He has served as the Chief Executive Director of Miraikan, Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, since 2000, and he is convening the Science Centre World Summit in 2017.

Dr Mohri is a powerful advocate for change to make the world more sustainable.

“We have 7.2 billion people in the world and need to make some big changes to ensure our beautiful blue planet remains beautiful,” Dr Mohri said.

On 16 April 2018, Dr Mamoru Mohri received France’s National Order of the Legion of Honour, Knight (Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, Chevalier). The award is the highest French order of merit for military and civil merit.

Astronaut and Director of the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan), Dr Mohri was presented with the award in Tokyo by French Ambassador Laurent Pic.

During his space career Dr Mohri established special relationships with French astronauts, including Claudie Haigneré, the first French astronaut. In 2015 Dr Mohir hosted the opening ceremony of the Year of Franco-Japanese Innovation at the Miraikan. He contributed greatly to the success of this major event and has played an important role in Franco-Japanese relations.

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