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Japanese Researchers Faked Data in Spaceflight Simulation

The space agency will reprimand astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, who led the research team, but he's still going to the space station next year.

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The experiment was meant to simulate life on the ISS.
The experiment was meant to simulate life on the ISS.
Image: ESA

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) says a team of researchers fabricated the results of an experiment, led by one of its astronauts, that sought to simulate daily life on board the International Space Station (ISS).

JAXA stated that it would subject astronaut Satoshi Furukawa to disciplinary action over data tampering, Japanese media reported. The experiment in question, conducted between 2016 and 2017, involved 40 participants who were confined to closed environments to simulate what astronauts experience during spaceflight.


The participants spent about two weeks at a facility in Tsukuba, a city northeast of Tokyo, after which time their stress levels and mental well-being were to be assessed by the overseeing researchers. Or at least, that was the plan. Instead, the two researchers responsible for conducting the interviews fabricated the data, compiling psychological assessments without actually having done the interviews and rewriting the diagnosis of the participants, according to NHK World-Japan. The researchers also claimed that three of them had conducted the interviews, when in fact it was just the two.

JAXA began investigating the results of the research in November 2020 upon noticing that something wasn’t quite right with the data, and subsequently suspending the 190 million yen ($1.4 million) experiment. The researchers involved claimed that they were too busy to dedicate enough time towards the data gathering for the experiment, according to to JAXA vice president Hiroshi Sasaki and as reported in Kyoto News.


The Japanese space agency will reprimand 58-year-old astronaut Furukawa, who was overseeing the experiment as project supervisor. However, since Furukawa was not personally involved in fabricating the data, his upcoming mission to the ISS in 2023 will not be affected.

JAXA also stated that it would look into returning the grant it had received from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for the experiment. “This is a case that would be described by researchers and society in general as falsifying and rewriting data,” Sasaki said during a news conference on Friday. “We offer our deepest apology and will make every effort to prevent a recurrence.”

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