Yesterday, the heads of the space agencies for Europe, Canada, Russia, India, and Japan met in Washington D.C. (without NASA, which had all hands on deck for the SpaceX launch in Florida). The most interesting topic of conversation? The moon, which seems to be the destination on everyone’s agenda except for NASA. And for Russia, it’s less a destination and more a frontier for colonization.
By Sean Kane
Posted 12.02.2011 at 5:25 pm 9 Comments
The Japanese seem to have the most fun aboard the ISS, making space sushi and taking Twitpics. Now, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa has accomplished what so many only children on Earth have unsuccessfully attempted: playing baseball by himself. In this video, shot aboard the ISS during missions 28 and 29, the JAXA astronaut throws a few pitches, hits them with a tiny bat, and even manages to get himself out.
Artificially intelligent rockets could perform self-diagnostics and self-repairs, lowering the cost of future space launches. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency is working on an intelligent rocket to supplement its current lift vehicle, and it would be cheaper and simpler to use, engineers say.
The Japanese probe Hayabusa’s first peaceful journey to an asteroid was so successful in returning samples of the asteroid Itokowa to Earth that JAXA, the Japanese space agency, is planning a second Hayabusa mission. But Hayabusa 2 won’t come in peace. The second asteroid probe will pack an impactor that detonates an explosive on the asteroid’s surface.
The failure of a Venus probe to reach orbit last week will likely prompt the Japanese space program to take a more cautious tack, according to scientists attending the American Geophysical Union fall meeting this week. The Akatsuki probe — meaning “dawn” in Japanese — is shedding light on the perils of space ambition on a shoestring budget, according to Space.com.
A Japanese probe bound for Venus has missed its orbit and been seized by the sun’s gravitational pull, in a major setback for Japan’s shoestring space program. The probe, called Akatsuki, isn’t necessarily lost however. JAXA officials are still in contact with the probe and may try to insert it into orbit around Venus when it passes near the planet again – in six years.
Ever since Japan’s asteroid exploring spacecraft Hyabusa crash-landed in the Australian outback this summer after a seven year round trip through space, astronomers and space geeks the world over have been waiting to hear confirmation from JAXA (the Japanese space agency) that the troubled mission did indeed bring back samples of asteroid dust. Today they got it. For the first time, scientists have collected dust from an extraterrestrial asteroid and returned it to Earth for study.
Promising but ambiguous news out of Japan this morning: researchers inspecting the asteroid dust from JAXA’s the Hyabusa mission – the seven-year round trip that landed a probe on a passing asteroid before returning to Earth – have found particles that could contain signs of extraterrestrial life.
Japan’s IKAROS spacecraft is still solar sailing its way across the solar system in a proof of concept experiment that has gone, by all outward appearances, extremely well thus far. Marking another milestone for the mission, JAXA (Japan’s space agency) announced earlier this week the completion of another successful experiment as IKAROS executed attitude control using thin LCD panel devices built into the edges of its membrane-like solar sail.
JAXA, the Japanese space agency, has released the first photographs of the interior of the Hayabusa probe. Last week, we were starting to fear that the seven-year mission had returned to Earth without the crumbs of asteroid Itokawa that it had been sent for. But that photo looks promising.
The Hayabusa spacecraft landed in the Australian outback on June 13, after a seven-year space journey. It is the hope of JAXA, Japan's space agency, that the capsule Hayabusa is carrying contains a sample taken from asteroid Itokawa. If so, this will be the first sample of asteroid material ever returned to Earth by a space mission.
Now, the process of opening the capsule to see what's inside has begun.
A plucky Japanese probe burned up in a spectacular fireworks display Sunday, celebrating the end of a mission that found success despite being plagued with problems.
The Hayabusa probe overcame several obstacles to fly 3 billion miles to and from a tiny asteroid, land on its surface and (hopefully) collect samples. The spacecraft broke up in the upper atmosphere upon returning home, but not before it released a 15-inch capsule that might contain samples from the asteroid Itokawa. If it does, the sample will be the first material ever returned to Earth from a celestial body other than the moon.
It’s sink or sail time for Japan’s IKAROS spacecraft, and according to initial reports from JAXA the unfurling of the first solar sail deployed for actual deep space travel went off without a hitch.
But the successful sail deployment isn’t a guarantee of success. IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) still has to get moving, and mission handlers say in their blog posts today that it will be a few weeks before we know if the sail is really working the way it is supposed to.
A Japanese meteor-investigator probe will become a meteor itself when it returns to Earth over the weekend. The Hayabusa probe is screaming toward Earth at asteroid speed, according to scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Scientists hope it is carrying samples obtained from a 2005 visit to the small asteroid Itokawa.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.