Mutta readies himself to take JAXA's third exam, which will apparently take 2 weeks. Mutta stops by Sharon's place for some brief advice to clear his mind. The exam starts right away as the 15 participants are boarded onto a bus and travel to a top secret location. But it's no ordinary bus, as all the windows are covered in sheet metal, and there are cameras watching every seat. What is JAXA looking for in determining the best astronaut candidates?
Sharon prepares a shake for Mutta
Having received the news that he passed the second exam, it is time for Mutta to take JAXA's third exam, which will apparently take two weeks, in the hopes of becoming an astronaut. On his way to JAXA, he stops by Sharon's place in the early morning. He thinks about Kenji and Serika and begins to wonder whether he has any good reason to become an astronaut, or if he needs to have a reason. Sharon tells him that it's okay because all astronauts start off with a dream, whether it's from curiosity or other.
As Sharon says bye to Mutta, Sharon comments that this is what it must feel like to send a child off. Mutta agrees that Sharon is even acting more motherly than his own mom, explaining how his mom was still asleep when he head out today. Sharon remembers the day that she met Hibito and Mutta. Twenty years ago, Mutta and Hibito came to her house because they heard there was a telescope that could be used to see the moon.
Serika greets Mutta and Kenji
Mutta arrives at the exam orientation, and he counts that there are 15 people. Both Mutta and Kenji thought there were only going to accept 8 (judging from previous years). The orientation begins with a few words from Director Nasuda. He is very brief and concludes saying, "Let the exam begin, START!" Everyone is told that there is a bus waiting for them, and that it is going to be a long ride. Everyone is surprised because they thought the exam would take place at JAXA.
The bus pulls up, and it's seems armored and covered in sheet metal. Everyone is asked to leave their watches and cell phones at the front. Kenji concludes that they are going somewhere top secret and JAXA doesn't want any of them to see the scenery. Kenji and Mutta notice that each seat is being watched by a camera, and the bus driver is writing things down on a notepad as they step onto the bus. Kenji realizes that the third exam has probably already begun.
The JAXA staff member monitors them
A single JAXA staff member stands at the front of the bus, with the bus driver shielded off by a metal door (so they cannot see anything outside). Kenji is getting nervous as he tries to figure out what exactly the judges are watching for. After an hour, one of the male participants gets restless and annoyed at the person he is sitting beside. The JAXA staff member then says they will begin ice breakers, having to pull a number out of a box, indicating where they should sit. For ten minutes they will have to talk with the person next to them, but since they have an odd number, one person will have to wait for the 10 minutes. Unfortunately Serika is the one sitting out.
A list of all 15 participants
After the ten minutes the people sitting in aisle seats are instructed to move clockwise over one seat. So, apparently they are going to do icebreakers for 150minutes. All Mutta can think about is getting the chance to talk to Serika. Afterward, Mutta reflects on his chat with Serika. It turns out Serika loves the movies Space Cowboys, Armageddon and Star Wars, and even has a Star Wars ringtone (see Note 1).
The staff member then hands out a survey for them to complete. The first page contains names and pictures of all the participants in the Third Exam. On the second sheet they are asked to write down in order of 1 to 15, who they each think is most qualified to become an astronaut. Everyone is shocked, not to mention tired.
The running bus
Luckily after finishing the survey they start serving dinner a bento box and a bottled drink. Soon after the lights are turned off and everyone falls asleep as the bus continues running. Just before falling asleep, Mutta wonders how many hours it has been since they stepped on the bus.
Points of Interest
- Space Cowboys (2000), Armageddon (1998), Star Wars (1977), are all popular western movies with space themes and/or take place in space.