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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Goodbye Kitty

In space, especially if you don't have a mouth, nobody can hear you scream.

Such is the plight for one of Japan's most beloved pop-culture icons—Hello Kitty— who is currently in space as part of a Japanese government-funded mission. But, while she can not scream, Hello Kitty will be able to communicate with us mere Earthlings... or rather we can have her communicate for us.

Perhaps at this time we could also note that whatever Japan Prime Minster Abe Shinzo (surname first) appears to want, Japan Prime Minister Abe Shinzo appears to get.

Abe wanted to give a push to Japan's high-tech industry in an effort to foster some goodwill and better yet, economic growth... and so, believe it or not, shooting a four-centimeter tall figurine of Hello Kitty into space aboard the Hodoyoshi-3 satellite will help do just that.

Hello Kitty, in case you are unaware, is a pop-cultural phenom created by Sanrio Co. Ltd., and is used to market a score of consumer products - and this time, instead of the cat merely peering through a house window looking out at the outside world, Hello Kitty is peering out of the satellite's window down at Earth.

The Hodoyoshi-3 is one of two satellites (see below), with the Hodoyoshi-4, that was built by the University of Tokyo's Nano-Satellite Center.

The Hello Kitty up in space right now is one Sanrio provided, and is four-centimeters (1.6-inches) in height, residing in a special compartment that is 70-centimeters (28-inches) high by 50 centimeters (about 20-inches) wide and 50 centimeters deep - so she has plenty of room to stretch and for her litter box.

Hello Kitty was launched from Russia on June 19, 2014 aboard the Hodoyoshi-3, going up with another 36 satellites for deployment.

The Catronaut's mission, or rather the Hodoyoshi-3's mission is to test space technology and snap high-resolution photos of our planet from space because apparently no one has ever done that before. That, d'uh, was sarcasm.

The satellite is only the size of a large garbage bin, and was developed as part of a ¥4-billion (~US $39-million) program funded by Japan's Education and Science ministry. I repeat... to take pictures of Earth from space.

Okay... for the researchers and for Prime Minister Abe, the ulterior motive of the whole mission is get more private companies interested in working with satellites - at least that's what Tanaka Toshiki (surname first) says. Tanaka is in charge of the project at the University of Tokyo’s Nano-Satellite Center.

Sanrio was chosen as the first private-partner because it correctly assumed that Hello Kitty could get a lot of its fans who love a bit of white pussy cat to also be interested in space, the final frontier.

"Through this project we can make those people interested and stimulate their scientific curiosity. We can move their hearts," Tanaka says.

Despite having a famous cat on board, it hasn't been a cakewalk for the research team, as it has spent most of its time maneuvering the satellite to always have Hello Kitty in the window with Earth as the background.... see that image at the very top!

The research team also used special paint to coat the Hello Kitty mascot to protect it from UV (ultra-violet) rays, cosmic rays and vacuum space - hopefully so it doesn't turn into one of the Fantastic Four.
Hello Thing. When I Googled this, I didn't know it existed, but I figured someone would create one. I was right.
Sanrio has asked fans to submit 180-character messages that Hello Kitty could deliver from space to friends and family. Sanrio received 100 submissions in the first day, according to Tohmatsu Kazuo (surname first), a Sanrio spokesperson.

You can send your messages for submission through til August 25, 2014... and good news for all, Sanrio says this is open to everyone around the world.

You can visit Sanrio's Hello Kitty website HERE, where you will find the Guidelines for sending a message. The English guidelines are actually directly below the Japanese ones. I should note, however, that all inquiries will be done in Japanese... but I'm betting someone there - if you are lucky enough to be contacted - will probably speak a modicum of English. But don't quote me on that.

A selection committee will review the submissions and make a final decision on which messages have the right stuff.

These 'winning' messages will be transmitted from space between August 26 through to September 8, 2014, and will also be featured on the Hello Kitty 40th Anniversary website.

Cool! I could have a message on the Hello Kitty website?! (Squeal!)

Oh yeah, and sent from space too... that would be okay, I guess.

I'm pretty sure my sarcasm will have killed any chance of me getting a message sent from space by Hello Kitty. That and my lack of... what's that word? Oh yeah... imagination. 

Now... despite the fact that the mission is part of a ¥4-billion (~US $39-million) program funded by Japan's Education and Science ministry, this isn't even the first time that this mouthless Hello Kitty cat has been in space!

I know... I'm beginning to hate this cat, too. She's so much better than myself.

Hello Kitty's first mission in space - courtesy of an American (gaijin! - hisssssss) 7th grader.
Back in 2013, a youngster in the 7th grade (that's a first-year junior high school student for those of you in Japan) named Lauren Rojas of Antioch, California, USA, sent a Hello Kitty doll into Earth's stratosphere using a high-altitude balloon, reaching 28,537-meters (93,625-feet)... and of course, taking a bunch of awesome photos of Hello Kitty with Earth as a backdrop in space.

I repeat... to take pictures of Earth from space.

Rojas' space mission is proof positive that I am nowhere near as smart as I thought I was.

And... apparently for a ¥4-billion project (on-going), neither is Prime Minister Abe, Japan's Education and Science ministry, or the eggheads at the University of Tokyo.

As well, in April of 2004, NASA astronaut Mike Fincke took Hello Kitty to the ISS (Internatinal Space Station, with the doll remaining in orbit for over a year before it returned to Earth on the Discovery space shuttle in August of 2005.

On a sad note, I am unsure if there are plans to bring Hello Kitty back to Earth - and given Earth's past history on shooting animals into space, I wouldn't hold my breath... though I would suggest Hello Kitty might want to.

Perhaps we could have someone in Japan organize a multi-billion yen rescue mission... or better yet, ask an American 7th grader.

Andrew Joseph
PS: I sent off a message submission.

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