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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Japan's Space Experiment Craft: ISS Kibo

I love space exploration.

Actually, if you were to see my home, you would know I hate space and prefer organized clutter filled with art (paintings, ukiyo-e and my photographs), book cases and books, LEGO dioramas, and dog and cat hair (not preferred, but it's there again immediately after vacuuming!).

But I have had an affinity for space and all it represents for mankind since I watched Apollo 11 land on the moon back in 1969.

I watched every Apollo mission after that, saw the Apollo-Soyuz mission (built a Revell model of it, too), watched Viking take off, saw the first space shuttle mission, watched in horror while watching Challenger explode after lift-off (I watched it live at a friend's dorm at York University), and years later watched Columbia burn up in re-entry.

I have spent hours watching with the unaided eye a satellite triangulate in the sky. I have watched meteor showers, so-called shooting stars, watched the launching of the Hubble Space Telescope (and cringed when it was discovered to initially be blurry!), dreamed of flying in space, daring to go where no man has gone before...

I have studied astronomy in university and can even calculate the height of mountains on the moon by studying the length of shadow of it in a photograph. As a 14-year-old watching 2001: Space Odyssey for the first time, I guessed that the monolith was actually a fuel cell to one day ignite the brown-dwarf star Jupiter turning it into a sun, making out solar system a more common binary star system, rather than the strangely rare single star system. The movie 2010, proved me correct.

And yet... I have never looked through a telescope in my life. Not even the stars will wait forever, I guess.

So... you can tell I really enjoy my space science, and have been completely bummed out that man has not flown to the moon or beyond since landing for the last time on the moon's surface with Apollo 17 back in 1972, and even more pissed off that NASA has been forced to retire the space shuttle missions without an actual replacement plan!

It's why I am glad to hear about such things as the International Space Station (ISS), and some of the cool stuff the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is doing.

The ISS - International Space Station

It's these two entities that give me hope. And... I want you to know that I wrote that last sentence before I knew what 'kibo' meant in English. Read on...

Today, let's look the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), which is more affectionately known as Kibo (きぼう), which translates into 'Hope' in English.

Kibo is a Japanese science module for the International Space Station (ISS) that was developed by JAXA. It is the largest single ISS module and is situated in Earth's orbit.

Kibo was launched into space via three space shuttle missions, STS-123, STS-124and STS-127,  though it was operational after the first two launches of components.

Kibo consists of six components: the Pressurized Module (PM); Exposed Facility (EF); Experiment Logistics Module-Pressurized Section (ELM-PS); Experiment Logistics Module-Exposed Section (ELM-ES); Japanese Experiment Module Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS), and; the Inter-orbit Communication System (ICS).

The Pressurized Module (PM) is cylindrical in shape, and is where experiments utilizing the microgravity environment will be conducted. Of the 23 international Standard Payload Racks, 10 are racks are for science experiment. The Exposed Facility, Experiment Logistics Module and the Remote manipulator are all connected to the PM.

Affectionately known as the Terrace, the Exposed Facility (EF) is located outside the ISS, outside of the port cone of the PM, and is accessible through the PM airlock. Exposed to outer space at all times, the EF and the truss facilities, are the only locations where the space environment can directly be utilized by the crew. The EF houses experiments that need to be exposed to outer space. 

The Experiment Logistics Module (ELM) consists of two sections:
  • The Japanese Experiment Logistics Module, Pressurized Section (ELM-PS) –- also called the JLP –- is a pressurized addition to the PM. The module is a storage facility that provides storage space for experiment payloads, samples and spare items;
  • The unpressurized (external) section (ELM-ES) will serve the EF. It is intended as a storage and transportation module.
The Japanese Experiment Module Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS) is a robotic arm to support experiments conducted on the Exposed Facility. The main arm handles large items, while a smaller arm (the 'Small Fine Arm') can be attached to the main arm for more delicate work. The main arm is equipped with a TV camera allowing astronauts to monitor the operation from inside the pressurized module.


Pressurized Module
Length: 11.19 m (36.7 ft)
Diameter: 4.39 m (14.4 ft)
Mass: 14,800 kg (32,600 lb) 

Experiment Logistics Module
Length: 4.21 m (13.8 ft)
Diameter: 4.39 m (14.4 ft)
Mass: 8,386 kg (18,488 lb)

Anyhow... Kibo is doing experiments up in space. I know, many of my good friends think it is a waste of taxpayers money, and I really can't say I blame them... but as I said... it gives me hope for the future.

Some of the planned experiments for Kibo include:
 - MAXI X-ray astronomy from 0.5 to 30 keV.
 - SMILES observes and monitors very weak sub-millimeter wave emission lines of trace gas molecules in the stratosphere.
 - SEDA-AP (Space Environment Data Acquisition equipment-Attached Payload) measures neutrons, plasma, heavy ions, and high-energy light particles in ISS orbit. 
 - HREP (Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO) & Remote Atmospheric & Ionospheric Detection System (RAIDS) Experimental Payload)

Here's what JAXA has to say about Kibo:
 JAXA (has contacted) universities and other academic institutions to offer experiment themes for utilizing the Kibo, and conducts collaborative research with private companies. We also began a system of Kibo usage through which the private sector can use the Kibo with some fees.
We hope that space experiments and application will become more familiar to our lives through the Kibo.

What does this mean for us here on Earth? I have no bloody idea. And yet, I blindly hope it means something - something substantial that will help make a difference for us all. Really.

But... I really like that we continue to be curious about space. We are a part of it... why should we not know more about it? It has always helped me rediscover hope whenever I hear about a new mission.

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph

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