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Showing posts with label JAXA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label JAXA. Show all posts

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Learn about Japan's Hayabusa 2 Asteroid Chaser

Wanna see something cool? How about a look at the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Hayabusa 2 asteroid chaser  - its story, as told by a guy with an English accent? Classy.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, October 1, 2018

Japan Lands Two Robots On Asteroid

Call it what you will, but Japan is the first nation to have landed not just one, but two rovers on an asteroid.

The images above show the asteroid Ryugu, with JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) notations showing where the rovers landed.

It hardly seems fair, considering Japan is the only country to have actually done any asteroid chasing... but who cares? The feat by JAXA IS impressive.

Consider, if you will, that within the past month, the U.S. has announced that via NASA, it will once again journey to the Moon with manned missions... and note that no nation other than the U.S. has landed human beings on the Moon... and even then, none since 1972 and Apollo 17.

Of course, to this day, some people believe the moon landings to be a staged landing that actually took place in a lot somewhere in the U.S.

JAXA had launched its unmanned Hayabasa2 asteroid explorer to fly to the Ryugu asteroid, a one kilometer-wide chunk of rock.

On September 21, 2018 at 4:06PM GMT., it deployed two robotic probes--Rover 1A and 1B, and both landed successfully on Ryugu and began to transmit back images of the asteroid surface.

These probes are actually part of the MINERVA-II1 (MIcro Nano Experimental Robot Vehicle for Asteroid). The MINERVA-II1 is the world’s first rover (mobile exploration robot) to land on the surface of an asteroid.

It is also the first time for autonomous movement and picture capture to occur on an asteroid surface.

The MINERVA-II1 is, according to JAXA, "the world’s first man-made object to explore movement on an asteroid surface."

Rover 1A has four specially-designed color cameras--three are on Rover 1B--with the cameras taking stereo photos of Ryugu's surface.

Rover1A image of Ryugu Asteroid after landing on September 23, 2018.
Rover1B image of Ryugu Asteroid after landing on September 23, 2018.

The rovers are also equipped with temperature gauges and optical sensors as well as an accelerometer and a set of gyroscopes.

Click on the link below to see a 15-second color video taken by Rover 1B of the surface.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Japan’s Space Elevator

On September 22, 2018, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) launched a rocket that is carrying two small satellites to the International Space Station (ISS) that will be used to test some new technology for a space elevator.

Space elevator? WTF is that?

Well, one day in the future, astronauts may be able to use a “space elevator” to travel from Earth up into orbit to a connecting space flight. Of course, a freight elevator would also be in use.

The space elevator concept isn’t new, as dreamers have pondered its creation since the 1880s via science fiction.

By using a space elevator, there would be an inexpensive way (less rockets and fuel) to get astronauts and cargo into space (to a station), where they could then connect and fly away easier without the cloying effects of gravity causing space ships to need higher levels of rocket power.

This Japanese space flight is carrying the STARS-Me (Space Tethered Autonomous Robotic Satellite – Mini elevator), built by engineers at Shizuoka University in Japan.

The STARS-Me is two 10-centimeter cubic satellites connected by a 10-meter-long tether.

Deployed in space, the experiment will have a small three centimeters wide x six centimeters high robot—here representing a future space elevator—travel up and down the cable using a motor.

That photo at the top - that's what the experiment will look like.

JAXA has flown other STARS-Me proto-experiments up into space for deployment, such as the dual satellites and cable, but that one did not actually have the robot attempt to move between the satellites.

I like science fiction - especially the real old stuff, like Jules Verne… and this space elevator sounds like something taken right out of his discarded notes for a novel.

But, science fiction or not, the Obayashi Corporation of Japan thinks it can turn fantasy into reality, and do it by 2050AD. In fact, Obayashi Corporation actually announced its intention to build a space elevator all the way back in 2012, and is using the engineers at Shizuoka University to help them achieve their goal.

Who the heck is the Obayashi Corporation?

Headquartered in Minato, Tokyo, the Obayashi Corporation (株式会社大林組, Kabushiki-gaisha Ōbayashi Gumi) is one of five major Japanese construction companies.

Established in 1892 in Osaka, Obayashi operates in Japan, southeast Asia, Australia, Europe and the U.S., and has constructed the Kyoto Station Building and Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) Center in Tokyo, and, the Tokyo Skytree.

The space elevator, as currently envisioned, will utilize a 96,000-kilometer-long, carbon-nanotube cable attached to a floating “Earth Port” in the ocean on one end and a space station on the other.

In my head, I see airplanes flying into the elevator. Typhoons hitting the floating Earth Port. And holy crap… have you ever been stuck in an elevator?

Can you imagine what the wait time would be to have an elevator repair man come out?

Oh my Lord Otis!

Look… I appreciate that Obayashi Corporation is aware that current technology isn’t quite there yet to make this space elevator a reality. But that’s why they are trying to create the technology. Someone has to, right?

Are we going to use transporters? No! I’m with Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy… I don’t want my atoms scattered all over space. Besides, with a transporter, it has to disassemble your atoms at one point, and reassemble them at another. Do you cease to exit when your atoms are disassembled? Are you now a copy when you are reassembled? This isn’t me wondering, this is a real scientific question for theorists.

Pundits might suggest that we begin developing flying cars… shuttles… but seriously… how many times have you seen a car on the side of the road with engine trouble or out of gas… what if that happens when you are flying?

And the accidents… will drivers stay in “air” lanes?

My way around that is to have all flying car information uploaded to the IoT/Cloud, where an “airway” cloud computer monitors all vehicles upon its “roadway”, and can essentially drive the vehicles to ensure safe travel distance between cars, and entrance and exit from the roadway…

But, in my opinion, we are even farther away in technology for the flying car than we are for a space elevator.

Maybe a space elevator is the best idea.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Ōsumi satellite

I'm currently reading a book on the Saturn V rocket used to propel man onto Luna, our moon, for a book review on my other blog, Pioneers of Aviation.

Looking for a subject for today, I wondered just what the first Japanese satellite was to be successfully launched into space, or Earth orbit, if you will.

That turns out to be that little jewel in the photo above, the Ōsumi aka Ohsumi.

It was named after the old Ōsumi-ken (Ōsumi prefecture), a former province of Japan in the area that is now part of Kagoshima Prefecture.

The Ōsumi satellite was launched on February 11, 1970 via a Lambda 4S-5 rocket from Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima by the Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science, University of Tokyo, which is now part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

By successfully entering Earth's orbit, Japan became the fourth nation after the USSR, United States and France to release an artificial satellite into orbit.

The 24 kilograms (52.9 pound) Ōsumi satellite remained in orbit until August 2, 2003 before its orbit decayed and it burned up as it fell back down to Earth (around the border between Libya and Egypt.

The satellite consisted of a small observatory, which carried five experiments designed to make ionospheric observations of temperature and density, measurements of solar emission, and measurements of energetic particles.

The satellite was a regular 26-sided polygonal prism with a circumscribed radius of 75 cm. The batteries were powered by 5184 solar cells mounted on the satellite body. Average power consumption was 10.3 W.
Image via
Despite it being in space that long... over 33 years, the satellite wasn't as successful as you might think.

Upon launch, the Ōsumi satellite was supposed to have achieved a 500-kilometer circular orbit, but instead, and elliptical orbit was what occurred.

From 15:56:10 to 16:06:54, about two and a half hours after the launch, a radio signal from Ōsumi was received at Uchinoura confirming its first orbit around Earth.

The radio signal level gradually fell and the next day, February 12, during its sixth revolution (orbit), faint.

By the seventh orbit, the signal was lost, meaning it was only working for one day... less than, actually.

It is believed that the signal was lost between 14 and 15 hours after launch. It is hypothesized that the failure of the satellite was due to rapid reduction of power capacity because of higher than expected temperatures. IE... that darn elliptical orbit.

Since then, Japanese space missions have been much more successful.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image at the top via Wikipedia, per Rlandmann - Own work

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Martian Moons May Have Been Formed By Large Impact On Mars

Today, since it’s Earth Day (April 22, 2018) let’s talk science… in particular astronomy… one of those topics I not only enjoy reading about but actually excelled in back in university… even though I have never peered through a telescope of any magnitude.

According to the April 18, 2018 issue of Science Advances, in the article entitled the “Origin of Phobos and Deimos by the impact of a Vesta-to-Ceres-sized body with Mars”… oh wait… I kind of just gave away the whole thing right there.

Before we get lost in space, for those who are interested, go to the bottom of this article and click on the link to the music video by M|A|R|R|S - Pump Up The Volume, a 1987 video with some cool music - helping birth  British acid house music - and some old-school video footage of early manned space flight.

Anyhow, according to the article, scientists from the Southwest Research Institute theorize that the small, misshapen moons of Mars—Phobos and Deimos—were formed after a single impact of the young proto-Mars and a dwarf-planet-sized object similar in size to the largest asteroids Vesta and Ceres.

Now, an object smashing into a planet to create a moon is not new news—Earth and Luna (our moon) was formed in a similar fashion, though the Earth impact is suspected to have been much, much larger than the Martian one.

Luna may have formed when a Mars-sized object crashed into the nascent Earth 4.5 billion years ago, and the resulting debris coalesced into the Earth-Moon system.

Scientists have been discussing the origins of Mars' two moon for a while, wondering if they were simply asteroids captured by the planet's gravity or if they were formed from the common form of an equatorial disk of debris.

While others had thought of an impact as the cause, test models were limited by low numerical resolution and overly simplified modeling techniques.

“Ours is the first self-consistent model to identify the type of impact needed to lead to the formation of Mars’ two small moons,” says lead author Dr. Robin Canup, an associate vice-president in the Southwest Research Institute Space Science and Engineering Division. Canup is one of the leading scientists using large-scale hydrodynamical simulations to model planet-scale collisions, including the prevailing Earth-Moon formation model.

“A key result of the new work is the size of the impactor; we find that a large impactor — similar in size to the largest asteroids Vesta and Ceres — is needed, rather than a giant impactor,” Canup explains. “The model also predicts that the two moons are derived primarily from material originating in Mars, so their bulk compositions should be similar to that of Mars for most elements. However, heating of the ejecta and the low escape velocity from Mars suggests that water vapor would have been lost, implying that the moons will be dry if they formed by impact.”

The new Mars model invokes a much smaller impactor than considered previously. Earth’s diameter is about 8,000 miles, while Mars’ diameter is just over 4,200 miles. The Moon is just over 2,100 miles in diameter, about one-fourth the size of Earth.

While they formed in the same timeframe, Deimos and Phobos are very small, with diameters of only 7.5 miles and 14 miles respectively, and orbit very close to Mars.

The proposed Phobos-Deimos forming impactor would be between the size of the asteroid Vesta, which has a diameter of 326 miles, and the dwarf planet Ceres, which is 587 miles wide.

“We used state-of-the-art models to show that a Vesta-to-Ceres-sized impactor can produce a disk consistent with the formation of Mars’ small moons,” says the paper’s second author, Dr. Julien Salmon, an Southwest Research Instituteresearch scientist. “The outer portions of the disk accumulate into Phobos and Deimos, while the inner portions of the disk accumulate into larger moons that eventually spiral inward and are assimilated into Mars. Larger impacts advocated in prior works produce massive disks and more massive inner moons that prevent the survival of tiny moons like Phobos and Deimos.”

That's cool... but what the heck does any of this have to do with Japan?

Well, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has an upcoming Mars Moons eXploration (MMX) mission where it will try and determine the origin of the two moons of Mars.

The MMX mission is scheduled to launch in 2024, and will visit both moons with a planned landing on the surface of Phobos to take a surface sample before it returns to Earth in 2029.

“A primary objective of the MMX mission is to determine the origin of Mars’ moons, and having a model that predicts what the moons compositions would be if they formed by impact provides a key constraint for achieving that goal,” Canup acknowledges.

The mission will also take aboard a special NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) tool... of which I know little about, suffice to say that the JAXA mission is one that NASA is interested in.

As for the research done in the “Origin of Phobos and Deimos by the impact of a Vesta-to-Ceres-sized body with Mars,” it was funded by NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) in Silicon Valley, and by NASA’s Emerging Worlds program. The research was conducted as part of the Institute for the Science of Exploration Targets (ISET), a SSERVI team from SwRI’s office in Boulder, Colorado.

Andrew Joseph
PS: For your listening pleasure:

PPS: The image at the top of this article is from, and as it correctly states it is not to scale, but it does show how misshapen the two moons of Mars are.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Caves Of Luna

Luna, as I hope you are all aware, is the actual name of Earth’s singular moon.

Anyhow, back on October 18, 2017, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) says its Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE) moon probe (It also goes by the given name of Kaguya... though Selene is also a nice name.) found a large cavern under the moon’s surface in the Marius Hills area on the near side of the moon.

By the way... in Japanese literature or folklore, there's a Princess Kaguya... she's known as the Moon Child. You can read more about that in an old blog I did HERE.  

The Kaguya probe’s most recent find shows via a lunar radar sounder, that the cave is approximately 100 meters  (~328 feet)wide and goes on for about 50 kilometers (31.07 miles).


Back in 2009, Kaguya had found a large shaft that had an opening diameter of about 50 meters (164 feet), going down about 50 meters (164 feet)… so obviously, this new cavern is much larger-er-er-er-r-r-r! 

Scientists at JAXA hope that the cavern, likely formed via ancient volcanic activity (until about 1-billion years ago) on Luna, may contain ice or even water.

As for what the cavern could mean for the future: If man goes to the moon again in manned flights, and opts to build a colony there, it could be used as a base, providing shelter from nasty cosmic radiation… or from temperature extremes.

Of course, finding water there would be a boon, as astronauts would then no-longer need to drink their own re-processed urine.

I’ll drink to that!
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Big Brother Is Watching You In Space

There's probably a bit of a creep factor here, but odds are that if you are an astronaut/cosmonaut, you already know that every little thing you do up in space, is being recorded.

Meet the JEM Internal Ball Camera, aka Int-Ball, a camera placed aboard a spacecraft, that can move around thanks to the really remote control system down on Earth.

"Beep... moving Int-Ball to go and checkout Astronaut Carly..., er the sleeping arrangements of Astronaut Jenkins... Int-Ball indicates her blankie has slipped off."

What's the matter, Dave? ... Big Brother is watching You.

I'm not actually creepy, even though it appears as though I think that way. I just want you to know I think this way because we need to be aware that even the most innocent thing can be turned into something evil... just like how Einstein's E=mc2 helped usher in atomic weaponry.

You'll notice I didn't say he invented it.

Launched on June 4, 2017, the U.S. Dragon ship met and delivered the Int-Ball to Japan's experiment module "Kibo" aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Here's what the Int-Ball can do:
  • The camera can move autonomously in floating space and record still and moving images under remote control on Earth at the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center;
  • The recorded images and videos can be checked in real-time by flight controllers and researchers on Earth, and sent back (a real up-load) to the crew in space;
  • The camera adopts existing drone technology and its exterior and inner structures were all manufactured by 3D-printing;
  • The Int-Ball weighs 1kg (2.2lbs), has a diameter of 15cm, and has 12 propellers;
  • Looks a lot like BB8.
So... WTF good is the Int-Ball?

Excellent question - glad you asked.

JAXA says that since astronauts currently spend about 10% of their work day actually taking photos, Int-Ball will save the astronauts time allowing them either 10% more time to goof off or, more than likely, give them more time to do real science-y stuff that I suppose astronauts do. Why don't I know what they do? I know they do experiments, monitor the experiments, and stuff like that... I would guess they secretly deploy spyware satellites for such covert operations like MLB (Major League Baseball).

Fact checking... I swear this is on the JAXA website:
  • Enabling flight controllers and researchers on the ground to check the crew's work from the same viewpoint as the crew. The effective cooperative work between in space and on the ground will contribute to maximized results of "Kibo" utilization experiments.
The ground crew and their slide rulers will doublecheck the work of the astronauts. Imagine if that had happened on Apollo 13... oh wait, it did. Nevermind.

Wanna see the Int-Ball in action? C'mon... ya gotta... you've read this far...

By the way... when I first heard of Int-Ball, I thought about Happy Fun Ball... a "commercial" from a 1991 episode of SNL (Saturday Night Live)... of course I was in Japan at the time, but I did see it on a special edition of SNL and their "commercials".  You can see a "blurry" version of Happy Fun Ball HERE, as apparently this was in the days before HD... or even SD... or even D.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Beats me how I can remember "Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball" but can't recall what I had for dinner on Tuesday. Ugh... I hope it wasn't Happy Fun Ball.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Japanese Astronaut on International Space Station

Japanese astronaut flight engineer 1 Onishi Takuya (surname first, 大西 卓哉) is currently serving aboard the ISS (International Space Station), after a Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying three astronauts, including himself docked on July 9, 2016.

Onishi, 40, along with Russian astronaut Anatoly Ivanishin, the 47-year-old commander of Soyuz, and flight engineer 2 Kathleen Rubins, 37 (the 60th woman to fly in space), from the U.S. are expected to stay on the ISS for about four months.

Upon arrival, the three were greeted and hugged by astronauts who had been staying in the ISS: Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos, Tim Kopra of NASA and Tim Peake of the European Space Agency, who had arrived there after a December 15, 2015 launch aboard the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft lifting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Onishi and his crew mates had also lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 7, 2016.
An interesting note is that Onishi’s spacecraft was the maiden voyage for the Soyuz MS, an upgraded version of the Soyuz series.

Manufactured by RKK Energia, the Soyuz MS-01 flew the 130th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft transporting Expedition 48.

The initial flight of the new type of Soyuz was to have launched on June 6, 2016, but it was scrubbed after discovering flaws in the control system that could affect the docking to the ISS—Obviously, those flaws were corrected.

Soyuz MS-01 crew patch The Soyuz MS-01 patch introduces the latest modification of the Soyuz spacecraft, in service for nearly 50 years. The ship is shown approaching the International Space Station, ready to deliver a new crew and start another expedition on the orbital facility. The number of the ship is depicted in bold characters to emphasize a new beginning: one that might one day lead to a mission to Mars, the planet subtly hiding behind the zero.

As for Onishi, he was born in Nerima, Tokyo, Japan. He graduated from Seiko High School in Yokohama in 1994 and received a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical and Space
Engineering from the University of Tokyo in 1998.

He joined All Nippon Airways (ANA) in 1998 and was assigned to the Passenger Service Department, Haneda airport, Tokyo, where he was a check-in agent and assisted disabled people in boarding.

Not quite one giant leap, but I like that Onishi was originally a check-in agent—which kind of means there is hope for all of us—provided we have his brains and get-up-and-go.

He then did two years of basic flight training in Bakersfield, California and one year of advanced flight training in Tokyo, and was then promoted to co-pilot of Boeing 767 airplanes in October 2003, flying domestic and international routes.
(From left) Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Kate Rubins of NASA and Onishi Takuya of JAXA.
Onishi was selected by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in February 2009, as a Japanese astronaut candidate for the International Space Station, and the ISS Astronaut Basic Training domestic program at Tsukuba Space Center in Japan beginning in April of 2009.

Completing this, Onishi then took part in an Astronaut Candidate Training program with 13 others at NASA’s  Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Training included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in ISS systems, Extravehicular Activity (EVA), robotics, physiological training, T-38 flight training (the Northrop T-38 Talon is a two-seat, twin-engine supersonic jet trainer. It was the world's first supersonic trainer), and water and wilderness survival training (you know, in case they land in the future and it’s all Planet Of The Apes).

On September 19, 2011, NASA announced that Onishi would serve as an aquanaut aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory during the NEEMO 15 undersea exploration mission from October 17-30, 2011, but that was delayed by poor weather until October 20, 2011. One day later—IE 24 hours later—Onishi and his team officially became aquanauts after being underwater for that length of time. A hurricane approaching ended his time below the surface on October 26, 2011.

Onishi is married and enjoys flying, playing the saxophone (not sure what type), movies (apparently all of them as no genre was noted) and hiking (which he won’t get to do too much of aboard the ISS).

No... I do not know his blood type, but I believe he is the 11th Japanese person to fly in space.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Wreck A Satellite And Take A Pay Cut For A Few Months

Okay… so I spotted this press release about two weeks earlier:

Due to the anomaly experienced with X-Ray Astronomy Satellite ASTRO-H (Hitomi), three of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s executive employees have decided to take a 10% pay cut to their monthly salary for four months, to be effective July 2016.

So… I had no idea what this was all about, and see why three executives at JAXA needed to take a pay cut.

Hmm.. turns out a very expensive black hole-spotting X-Ray astronomy satellite that was launched in February of 2016 and began observations in March - stopped working after just a few days.

Hitomi was built with help from NASA and other space agencies as a space observatory, and carried four X-Ray telescopes and two gamma-ray detectors that was supposed to help mankind learn more about Black Holes and, ultimately, the Origin of the Universe.

Sure. That would have been nice, but aside from the Black Hole data it might have culled, I doubt we would have learned anything definitive about the Origins of the Universe… I mean… they keep telling us that the age of the Universe is different from what they had thought… they don’t know why the universe isn’t as heavy as they suspect it should be (sucked into a Black Hole - and not ejected via a theorized but unproven White Hole?)… heck… they weren’t even sure about Pluto being a planet or planetoid until just recently.

It is possible that even with all the data that they found in those three days that Hitomi was working, it might be a century or more until we have the wherewithall to adequately interpret those results.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try, however.

As for Hitomi: apparently, there was a report from the U.S. Joint Space Operations Center, which tracks man-made objects in orbit, noting that five pieces of debris had apparently separated from the spacecraft.

That’s not good, right?

"The pieces could be blown off insulation from an over-pressure event in one of the instruments," Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who works on other X-Ray satellites including Chandra, said on Twitter. "'Debris' doesn't mean Hitomi's in little pieces. It means little pieces have come off it. Satellite might be basically intact, we don't know."

That was back in late March. But now we do know.

At the initial signs of distress, Hitomi had begun to spin out of control - then the pieces were seen to have come apart from it - and then JAXA lost contact with it.

Below is a video shot by an amateur astronomer and posted to a National Geographic website on March 28, 2016 where via the change of shadow and light, you can see that something is spinning out of control - HERE

JAXA pretty much spent all of April trying to reestablish contact with Hitomi, but eventually announced that “it is highly likely that both solar array paddles had broken off at their bases where they are vulnerable to rotation.”

Those paddles are the ‘wing’s that essentially capture solar energy and turn it into electricity to power the whole she-bang.

Over that month, JAXA thought on three separate occasions that it had received a signal from Hitomi, but follow-ups show that she never actually called, coming from another source with a different frequency.

With the solar panels having broken off, and no electricity to power it, Hitomi is dead in space.

So… did JAXA make these three space executives fall on their sword to apologize for the mission’s failure?

Or was there more?

Quiet reports say that (shh), the Hitomi may have broken up after a poor command from mission control caused an engineering error.

What? Like accidentally bringing the wings into the satellite without closing/folding them first? That would be my outlandish guess.

Anyhow… no real biggie.

As of July 1, through October 31 - four months… three unnamed space executives at JAXA are deciding to take a 10% pay cut.


Only 10%?

What, so, based on an equivalent of a US $100,000 yearly salary, instead of earning the equivalent US $8,333.33 a month… they will for four months make the equivalent of US $7,500 a month.

They would make only US $96,666.64 this year… meaning they lost the equivalent of US $3,333.36.

How much to that satellite cost?

Hitomi cost ¥31 billion (US $273 million), which includes the cost of launching it.

Oh wait! That US $3,333.36 x three space executives = US $10,000.08. Let’s round that down to $10,000.

Of course, this presupposes that these three JAXA representatives all make an equivalent of $100,000 apiece annually.

You know… if someone did give a bad command in error, IE accidentally, I would bet that these three representatives forced (volunteering) to take a four-month pay cut are actually doing so because an underling screwed up - not because of anything they themselves did.

That seems like a Japanese thing to do.

Now... what happened to the person who really screwed up? I guess we'll find out if the next mission will be manned.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Construction By Robots On Mars

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is looking to take automated construction technologies aka robotics into space to build on the surfaces of our moon (our moon is named Luna) and Mars.

Why robotics? Well… it’s the next step in evolution for Japan, as its population continues to grow older implying that its workforce will continue to shrink as physically quickly as its aging population (people shrink as they get older)…

Also…  it’s not like we’ve even come close to putting a human being on Mars (Matt Damon excluded  - The Martian is a great movie)… and we haven’t even set foot on Earth’s moon since Apollo 17 in December 14, 1972. That’s 44 years ago… and I’m sure a few of you readers weren’t even born then!

Yes… Vietnam costs, SkyLab as the next best thing, followed by recessions, the Space Shuttle Program, terrorism battles and wars to fight which also took time, effort and money away from space exploration…

While SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Corporation and even NASA’s 2014 launch of an Orion spacecraft atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket might seem like we are taking a giant leap forward… if we have learned anything from watching movies about space travel, is that FUBARs and SNAFUs (you can look those terms up yourself) can happen… you can also point to the two Space Shuttle disasters, if you are looking for real-life crap. 

With a once-again fledgling space concept hopefully in the fold, the last thing one needs is a failure.

Or… maybe JAXA just thinks it would be cool to see what its high-tech robotics package could do in anticipation of human arrival on Luna or Mars.

The concept of constructing semi-permanent or permanent human colonies on another planet has been fuel for thought for sci-fi writers since the early 1950s… and perhaps even earlier.

In 1959, NASA - 10 years before it even landed Apollo 11 on the moon’s surface - had created studies to discuss the likelihood of erecting a military moon base. The USSR also thought that would be a good idea.

With the Cold War over and a new one chilling between the same and different combatants, NASA (US), the Russian Space Agency, European Space Agency and even some forward-thinking private architects have created plans for space bases.

In 2015, NASA even had a 3D Printed Habitat Challenge focused on creating a base on Mars, offered US$2.25 million to push along the 3D printing technology… saying: "needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond."

The Ice House.
The winner, Ice House, sought to use Mars' predicted abundance (PREDICTED!!) of sub-surface water ice to form a translucent and radiation-protective skin inside an inflatable membrane.

If JAXA has plans for what it could construct on Luna or Mars, it ain’t saying, but the space agency has contracted with Kajima Corporation (鹿島建設株式会社, Kajima Kensetsu Kabushiki-gaisha), a Japanese construction company to help plan the possible future extra-terrestrial construction. See HERE for company information.

I don’t know where Nikkei Asian Review got it’s estimate, but they seem to think that if things go as planned, JAXA could construct living quarters for four to six people on the Moon by 2030 and on Mars by 2040.
Kajima's A4CSEL automated system. Image from Kajima.
JAXA likes Kajima’s dam constructing equipment, the A4CSEL automated system (Automated Autonomous Advanced Accelerated Construction System for Safety, Efficiency, and Liability), and thinks it could be adapted to use off-planet.

Wait… Automated Autonomous Advanced Accelerated Construction System for Safety, Efficiency, and Liability… couldn’t they leave off the safety, efficiency and liability part and then just shorten the name to the more marketable A4CS… or get rid of the S and make it sound like A-Force.

Now… while one could remote-control the machine via slow radio waves… or… they could send a computerized pre-programmed machine (with the option to use radio-control, I hope… in case things go sideways).

To prove it is possible, Kajima already has pre-programmed bulldozers doing various laborious tasks.. but again… this is on Earth… what about on Luna or Mars… where red sand could flow between the electronic brain… or heck… a breakdown occurs because there’s a Murphy on Luna?  

But that’s the challenge moving forward, isn’t it?

The space machines will need to be more than a machine that blindly follows orders, it will need to have its own vision system and have it’s own AI (artificial intelligence) allowing it to alter its current path to avoid hitting something, or to use a different tool should a large boulder be found in its construction zone.

Kajima says it will use the A4CSEL to move dirt and level ground first… and then to continue its leap into forward-moving technology to have the A4CSEL attempt to build complex structures… I would assume like trying to ensure a pre-fab house can be erected.

So… the A4CSEL, as it stands right now, is a radio-controlled machine… that Kajima and JAXA feel can be updated to become a pre-programmed robotic machine… and eventually complex enough that it can perform conflict resolution and actual construction.

JAXA will begin indoor experiments to further these technologies sometime after April 2017.

I hope it works. I thought we were all supposed to have jetpacks by the beginning of the 21st century… but, I guess we are still too damn busy trying to bash each other’s brains in with a stick.

Hoping this space odyssey works,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Image at very top: Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

JAXA Enters Venusian Orbit

Men may be from Mars, and women from Venus, which may explain why the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is making its moves on the cloudy planet of Venus. Okay, probably not.

Venus, is the second-closest planet orbiting around Sol, our sun, with Earth being the third-closest. Venus is often called Earth's sister planet as it shares similarities in size, mass, density and volume.

After a failed attempt back on December 7, 2010 to enter the orbit of Venus due to a failure within its main engine, JAXA's space probe, Akatsuki (the name means dawn or daybreak), was successful five years later on December 6, 2015.

After that initial failure sent, JAXA placed the Akatsuki probe into 'hibernation' until it could figure out how to save the mission.

The plan called for the probe's eight RCS (reaction control system) thrusters to alter it's trajectory and place it back in the best possible path to enter the orbit of Venus. It took five years, but the plan worked.    

The Akatsuki Venus Climate Orbiter or Planet-C project was initially launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan on May 21, 2010 atop an H-IIA 202 rocket along with the IKAROS solar sail craft.
 Its mission was to examine the atmosphere of Venus to true and predict behavior, with the aid of the infrared cameras, an ultraviolet imager, a lightning and airglow camera, and an ultra-stable oscillator for radio observations.

Now in orbit, Akatsuki has not yet begun to make atmospheric observations, as JAXA says it wants to take the next couple of days to ensure it is in the best possible orbit path to get the best possible results.

"Watch out for that tree!"

If you recall the theme song for George of the Jungle, you'll recall that sometimes stuff happens, so I applaud JAXA for taking the time (this time) to ensure the mission will be five years correct.  

Andrew Joseph
PS: Images above are courtesy of JAXA, and are computer-generated illustrations depicting the Akatsuki in orbit around Venus.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Worms innnnnn Spacccccceeeee

I recall reading an old Bugs Bunny comic when I was kid - one from the 1970s, where aliens came to Earth.

The alien said that since the people on Mars were Martians, the people on Venus were Venusians, the people from Earth must be Earthworms.

It makes sense… we gave our planet a fancy word for dirt, where worms live… despite the fact that this great blue marble has far more water on it than dirt.

Okay… I'm writing this at lunch time on Friday… so after work I'm going to go home and search for that comic book and that actual joke contained within it…

Anyhow… worms…

In an effort to study the effects of microgravity (the so-called weak gravity within something like a spacecraft) on the human body, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is performing two tests (experiments, really) while observing Caenorhabditis Elegans - aka a tiny roundworm. (See image above, courtesy of NASA.)

The plan is to try and figure what causes bone and muscle loss in humans after prolonged space travel - even after a few days up there.

For example, after spending a month on the ISS (International Space Station), astronauts will suffer anywhere from one to two percent loss of bone mass… and it continues for each additional month spent in space. After 50 months, you'd just be a big space suit of goo. Kidding. I think.

It's why astronauts have to perform daily exercises while in space… it's not just because they are health freaks - though I bet they are - but because it is needed to try and counter the effects of the bone mass loss.

Here's the thing… even with the exercise, that one to two percent bone mass loss is STILL what the astronauts suffer.

Apparently research is being carried out at many scientific facilities, such as King's College London who have developed skinsuits to simulate Earth gravity… it beats me how they are going to make the worms put them on considering the lack of hands, but it sounds promising. :)

The Caenorhabditis Elegans colorless and translucent worm is less than 1-mm long, and generally lives to a ripe old age of up to three weeks (in lab conditions) - both factors in why it was chosen, as they don't take up a lot of space and astronauts can grow multiple worm generations while on a mission. Plus, while there are specific male and females, they are hermaphrodites - possessing both male and female sexual organs. Any port in a storm, I guess.

Anatomical drawing of a male Caenorhabditis elegans nematode with emphasis on the reproductive system. Betcha didn't think worms were all that complex looking. Might make you think twice the next time you want to use one for bait... those these guys are pretty damn small...
As well, Caenorhabditis Elegans was the first multi-cellular organism to have its whole genome sequenced, and as of 2012, the only organism to have its connectome (neuronal "wiring diagram") completed.

Basically, scientists feel that this worm from Earth (though not an earth worm) can simulate human bone and muscle mass - just on a smaller scale.

Is it just me, but are you surprised to think that worms have bones… how come we've never seen worm skeletons in the ground - outside of a cartoon, that is.

The scientists at JAXA want to see if cellular degeneration occurs on succeeding generations of worms in an effort to see how and why such things occur and also to test if such 'adaptions' to space travel are transmitted over the generations without altering the basic DNA of an organism.

Why? Well, if we are to ever have families in space, they want to see if any kids born in space come out with reduced bone and/or muscle density, or if the new organism adapts successfully to its environment.

As well, they want to see if it's possible to develop a 'cure' for such muscle and bone mass loss  through medicine or alternative physical therapies.

I would like to see just how much bone or muscle loss can occur over a lengthy period of time... and does the body adapt to the environment. I understand that for these short trips astronauts take up into space, the bone and muscle loss is concerning - especially since it will affect them back on Earth... but does it have a negative affect on the human body (or Earth worms) after prolonged exposure up in space... or will the bones and muscles find that happy medium ground... I doubt we've  tested that...   
ISS (International Space Station) on May 23, 2010.
The second experiment involves a resupply mission to the ISS by a SpaceXDragon team that will look at degradation of muscle loss and how it affects the cytoskeleton of the worm.
SpaceXDragon - May 2012 - used to deliver people and supplies to the ISS. Privately-owned by a California company, it is a partially reusable, two-stage launch-to-orbit spacecraft.
In this experiment, a group of worms will be grown in a low-Earth orbit microgravity environ, with a second group grown in a 1G centrifuge to simulate an Earth gravity aboard the ISS space station…

In both cases, the worms will be returned to Earth and compared with a non-traveling set of worms grown in a lab in Japan.

While you might wonder at why so much money is being poured into such research for possible decades away long-term space travel, scientists point out that it also has practical applications here on Earth: like what happens to people who are forced into prolonged bed rest (muscle and bone loss occurs - probably due to blood settling) and and typical aging. Grandma used to be taller, right?

I would guess that up in space, with a lesser gravity, blood flow does not travel as well in the human body, and so does not have the same affect it would for the Earth-bound like you and I. The same would hold true for those forced to endure long periods of bed rest… improper blood flow…

Because bones are a living tissue, with the human body constantly breaking down and replacing it with new bone, I would imagine the growth is being stymied somehow...

Consider, also, that the human body weighs less in a micogravity environment... this means less stress is placed on the bones and body... so... the body begins to adapt to its lighter space environment...

Which... is you think about it, is actually pretty damn wonderful. Our bodies change to work best in a new environment.

But when does the density loss stop, this "disuse osteoporosis"? Cosmonauts on the USSR/Russian space station Mir (in operation between 1986-2001) spent long missions there, with Valeri Polyakov having the space record still, spending 437 days and 18 hours.

Polyakov's mission was to test the effects of microgravity on a human body. Although I can't find exact data regarding bone and muscle density loss (damn commies), we do know that mentally - while a bit down and feeling overworked, he was fine... so space shouldn't screw up your brain.   

Except that other tests have shown scientists that one year in space will compromise the immune system - not to mention the increased exposure to cosmic radiation - which may not turn you into the Fantastic Four, but it will hurt you.

On Earth, the European Space Agency and the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems performed a 520-day simulated space mission that showed that crew members showed signs of depression and boredom... and if you've watched enough modern space movies, you know that if left untreated, someone's going to get angry... and then violent.

The ISS insists its crew members perform two hours of exercise every day to combat excessive bone and muscle loss: one hour of cardiovascular training, and one hour of weightlifting. (Hunh... I was doing astronaut training plus when I was a workoutaholic.) 

Despite these exercises, most astronauts after spending six months in orbit are unable to walk after returning to Earth.

As the worm turns, so too does the world around us, and perhaps one day the quality of life in space and on Earth can be improved upon.

And it starts with Japan and its tests involving those magnificent Earth creatures - the worm.

If you are having tequila this weekend - don't eat the worm...

Andrew Joseph

PS: If you are wondering about the headline, well... perhaps you have heard of the Muppet Show and their multiple skits (32 episodes in four seasons) of Pigs In Space... said in the same fashion I presented at the top.  See below for picture of the crew of the Swine Trek.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Japanese Robot In Space — And No One Dies

How the fug did I miss this story? Did you know that Japan had a robot astronaut up in the ISS (International Space Station) last year? I didn't... but...

Yup… and he was sent up all by its lonesome first, and was apparently lonely while waiting for Japanese commander Wakata Koichi (surname first) to come up and join him… so much so that it actually said: "Mr. Wakata, are you not here yet? I really want to see you soon."

Out loud. For everyone to hear. He called him Mister... not Commander. This robot needs to learn protocol. And patience.

I'm assuming that Kirobo the robot was not some sort of space sex robot… but it being Japan, one never knows.

Developed by Takahashi Tomotaka (surname first) specifically to go into space to accompany Wakata, the first ever Japanese commander of the International Space Station, I'm really kind of creeped out by the whole thing.

I still have images of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey going crazy trying to kill everyone. But... no one died.

Here are some Kirobo facts:
  • Height: 34 cm (13 in) - just a shade larger than my foot;
  • Width: 18 cm (7.1 in);
  • Depth: 15 cm (5.9 in);
  • Weight: 1 kg (2.2 lb);
  • Languages: speaks Japanese. Only;
  • Siblings: Twin brother named Mirata, who stayed on Earth as a back-up crew member hating Kirobo's success;
  • Name: a mix of 'kibo' (希望, which means "hope") and "robo" (ロボ), which I am sure you can figure out what that means.
Aside from the more evil, sneering look on Mirata, these robots are twins... so why give duplicate information?
Anyhow… Kirobo is the same size as a taco loving chihuahua… yo quero sexo Taco Bell.

Kirobo arrived on the ISS on August 10th 2013 via JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)'s H-II Transfer Vehicle Kounotori 4, an unmanned resupply spacecraft launched August 4th, 2013 from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center.

The mighty, needy little robot was built by a combination of Dentsu, the University of Tokyo's Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, Robo Garage, Toyota, and JAXA.

I like that there's a company called Robo Garage. It feels like the future is here today!

From what I understand, the University of Tokyo and Robo Garage built the robot hardware and motion generation, Toyota created the voice recognition function and Dentsu created the conversation content and managed the project. VoiceText of Hoya Service provided the speech synthesis.

Voice recognition by Toyota? Hmmm, just what do they have planned for their cars?

So… needy or not, Kirobo is very cool. Along with speech, it also has natural language processing, which means that if Commander Wakata should begin speaking in nefarious Osaka street slang, Kirobo would be able to decode it—which is better than anything I am capable if you hear what I'm feeling.

Kirobo also has facial recognition, so we'll know if someone tries to sneak aboard the ISS - also it will be able to recognize his human Japanese spaceman and ignore everyone else should it wish.

And… like a photographic memory, Kirobo can perform video recording, though in my opinion, it's more fun to watch others rather than filming oneself…

Now… if it can move its robotic hand up and down in a sexually suggestive manner that I'd like you all to do for me now (Oh yeah! Thank-you), the loneliness of space won't be so bad. In space, no one can hear you orgasm. But in zero gravity it's going to be a bitch to clean up.

Sorry. I'm just horny. It's lunch time and I need to eat my way through to some food. Horny? Damn auto-correct. I meant hungry. Though, I guess both will do.

Not surprisingly, Kirobo was designed to work in zero-gravity environments and will assist Commander Wakata in various experiments. Its main goal is to see how well robots and humans can interact, hopefully leading the way to robots taking more active roles in assisting astronauts on missions.

Back on August 10, 2013 when Kirobo first boarded the ISS, it sent out a video message to the worlds: "Good morning to every one of you people on Earth. I am robot astronaut Kirobo. I am the world's first talking robot astronaut. Nice to meet you." It was done in Japanese, so no one except for the people of Japan had any clue what it said.

Anyhow… I've just been informed by Mirata, Kirobo's twin, that along with thinking me a pervert (thank-you very much), that Kirobo is not a sex-bot and even if it was, Kirobo was not alone up in the ISS with Commander Wakata, as Wakata flew in aboard a Soyuz-FG rocket with fellow astronauts Mikhail Tyurin of Russia and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio.

It's only a six-hour flight from Earth to the ISS! I've spent six hours going to and from work at least twice in the past three years! And that's just the suburbs to uptown Toronto! Thirty-four effing kilometers! For real.

"My dream is to see human beings and robots live together as friends," the robot added. "I will talk to you a lot from space so please listen to my chats."
Selfie - Kirobo posing in front of The Earth wearing earthglasses. Yes... the Earth. Where did I screw up so badly in life?
Now, since he can only speak Japanese, I assume he will be ignoring the Russian and American gaijin with respectful silence.

Anyhow, as I suspected, but again took too far, Kirobo's whole purpose is to see if a robotic companion can provide emotional support for people isolated for long periods of time. I had no idea that robot's had emotion to even lend support. I better be nicer to my toaster oven.

Hunh. The Japanese pilot gets a buddy, while the Russian and American can teach each the other how to swear in their language.

I'm kidding… I am sure all of these wonderful gentlemen speak English or Russian or Japanese and were able to communicate effectively.

I do think, however, that if you want to do a proper study on loneliness in space, you need to be alone.

Really... how the fug did I miss this story??!!

Andrew Joseph

Monday, January 20, 2014

Japan Wants To Be Your Space Garbagemen

Space garbagemen? Bet you weren't ready for that!

JAXA (the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) says it has come up with a way to collect all of the litter - space junk - orbiting the Earth, and is readying a satellite to prove that the big, blue marble Earth can be a green space partner to the rest of the universe.

In case you didn't know, there are more than 20,000 bits of space junk revolving around the planet Earth in various levels of orbit.

This space junk consists of old satellites no longer working, rocket stages, cast of equipment and other detritus from all of man's ascension into space beginning with the Soviet Union's stellar Sputnik I in 1957... so that's a lot of space junk left out in orbit in the last 56+ years.

Now... the reason that JAXA is interested in playing intergalactic garbage man is that all of this debris in space is actually starting to interfere with current and future space missions.

The orbiting junk is actually contained in a band up in space that is between 800-1,400 kilometers (500-900 miles) above the Earth's surface - and according to NASA (the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration), the average impact speed of a piece of orbital debris running into another object is 22,370 miles per hour.

Stick out your can - here come the garbage man.
The above line was sung by Scatman Crothers on the television show Chico And The Man, and for some reason, 40 years later it still resonates in my brain.

Now... still with television, JAXA will not be the first concept of garbagemen in space... for me, that distinction goes to the quirky eight-episode only Quark, about an interstellar garbage scow.

I watched a lot of television growing up, as did members of Japan's space community.

Using what Japanese space scientists are calling an electrodynamic tether made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminum, JAXA says that one end of the strip will be attached to one piece of the space debris, and then as the electricity generated by the tether as it swings through the Earth's magnetic field, this zapping of the junk will slow the orbiting speed of the debris and cause it to fall lower into an orbit.

Basically, as the space garbage falls lower in orbit, it will eventually fall out of orbit and then burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

At least, that's the plan. I'm guessing that in order to ensure that the space garbage - the one solitary piece of debris - actually burns up in the atmosphere, JAXA will endeavor to choose a relatively small piece of space junk to zap with its tether.

Now... don't worry. There's no need to go and hide down your rabbit hole. NASA says that a piece of debris actually falls from space about once every day, either burning up in the atmosphere or landing in the water.

Apparently the odds are always very good that space junk - should it not completely burn up in re-entry - will land in water, since the Earth is 70% covered by the stuff.

Uh... so there's only a 30% chance every day of having a tiny chunk of space junk hitting a land mass... and then less of a chance of it actually hitting a city... or a person... hmmm... the ISS didn't flush out its space poop did it?

(Even if it did, that would surely burn up in re-entry.. heck... we could be breathing in space poo particles right now!)
In 2008 an Australian farmer found space junk on his property. It apparently freaked out his pet marsupial, Jake The Peg, so much, that he had to "tie me kangaroo down, sport." 

Space Scow 54 - Where Are You?
"The experiment is specifically designed to contribute to developing a space debris cleaning method," notes Kagawa University associate professor Nohmi Masahiro (surname first), who is working with JAXA on the project, told AFP.

Now... unlike say the long wait between Star Wars movies, JAXA says the satellite containing the electrodynamic tether will be launched on February 28, 2014.

"We have two main objectives in the trial next month," he said. "First, to extend a 300-meter (1,000-foot) tether in orbit and secondly to observe the transfer of electricity."

Awwww. That means that at least on this space trip there won't be any burning of space trash.

You know... here in Toronto it's against the law to burn your own trash.

Oh well... I am sure that JAXA doesn't care about Toronto's puritanical green thinking... but I wonder... is JAXA so altruistic that it's willing to clean up everyone else's mess for free? Or does it have a deeper problem, like some sort of obsessive compulsive cleaning disorder?

Andrew Joseph
PS: Today's blog is brought to you by the Steve Miller Band, Star Wars, Chico And The Man, Car 54 Where Are You?, Alice in Wonderland, Rolf Harris, and Quark. I think that's enough name dropping for one blog.
PPS: Space junk image at the top is courtesy of NASA.

Friday, May 31, 2013

My LEGO Hayabusa Spacecraft Model

This is what I got in the mail a few days ago! It's the CUUSOO club LEGO Hayabusa kit!

I had only previously heard of it being on sale in Japan only... or exaggeratedly priced on E-Bay, and thus out of my somewhat meager price range... but then I decided to poke around the LEGO website - and lo and behold! They were offering the kit as an exclusive model for a mere $59.99 Cdn. I also got a small Iron Man Minifig with some dumb alien drone for free...

So I built it.

At a total of 369 pieces, I figured I'd be done in 20 minutes because despite being the type of person who likes to go long and slow, I like to challenge myself with how fast I can build an actual kit... mostly to assure myself that my seven-year-old son doesn't surpass me. I'm not ready for that yet.

(I should mention that my son played his first organized soccer game earlier this evening... and while I feared he would stink, he was the best player on our team and made me feel proud... and yes "our team"... I'm the ass coach... I mean assistant coach. That first coaching comment - that's something completely different and has no place in this space, though we did get our butt kicked 3-0).

So... I took my time... it took about three hours or more... while I hated the fact that the kit came with the bricks in something like five bags, the step-by-step instructions had me searching from one bag to the next for the required bricks. So I said screw it and dumped it onto the table I use to build my LEGO, so that I can watch TV and come up with yet another great story about Japan.

Yes... how is this about Japan? Well, the Hayabusa is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency spacecraft whose goal was to take soil samples from asteroids.

Asteroids, if you will recall, are plentiful in the orbit around our sun (Sol) between the planets Mars and Jupiter. basically, these chunks of rock might have formed into another planet, but its proximity to Jupiter's gravitational pull made it impossible for the rocks to accrete into a planet.

Why the asteroid soil sample? Well, it is hoped that the samples could tell us (people) more about the origins of the solar system, as its untouched surface would contain a far better record of the planet-forming time of our solar system than other planets which are bombarded by meteor(ites), or are covered in dust or gases.

The Hayabusa went up into space on May 9, 2003 launching from the Kagoshima Space Center (now called the Uchinoura Space Center). It's four ion engines (the main power) are weak, but have great fuel efficiency, and after two long years it rendezvoused with the asteroid in September of 2005.

It surveyed the asteroid dubbed 25143 Itokawa, after famed pioneering Japanese rocket scientist Dr. Itokawa Hideo (surname first) from a distance of about 20 kilometers before it moved in for a closer look, with an attempted landing taking place on November 20, 2005.

Although a sensor noted an obstacle during the Hayabusa's autonomous landing that destabilized its attitude, the space craft bounced a few times on the surface before achieving a safe landing.. though it sat leaning at an angle for about 30 minutes.

It lifted off and then on November 26, 2005 it landed a second time.

The way this spacecraft was designed to collect soil sample, was that it was supposed to fire pellets into the surface of the asteroid just before it landed so that the 'dust' could land on its sampling horn. 

The problem was that no pellets were fired on this second landing. Still there was hope that the two landing impacts would have kicked up enough dust.

The irregular-shaped Itokawa (the asteroid) is small, measuring only 535 m x 294m x 209m. It's smooth in some areas, and rocky in others.

Anyhow... mission accomplished, right? Wrong.

It now had to come back home with the samples. Unfortunately the spacecraft lost contact with the Space Center for about six weeks.

That problem, and other minor glitches actually added an extra three years to the return flight... as all but one of the ion engines failed. Luckily working from the Space Center, the space team managed to combine parts of two of the failed ion engines into one additional ion engine.

On June 13, 2010, Hayabusa made it home.

The analysis of the soil samples taken by Hayabusa (the largest was only 0.3mm in size), show that it contained bits of olivine, pyroxene, plagioclase and iron sulfide.

Scientists figure this stuff has been there for millions of years, and that the asteroid itself is actually part of the interior of a larger asteroid that broke apart - hence the smooth and rocky appearances.

Anyhow... that should be enough on the real space craft. Back to mine.

I was having fun building this model... and everything was running smoothly until I had a problem of my own... I couldn't get one of the LEGO Black Technic Axle and Pin Connector (angled) to allow a pin to be inserted through its hole.

I tried and tried for a long time - maybe 10 seconds - before I peered more closely at it. Realizing I needed my glasses for that closer look, I put them on. Hmm... this piece did not have a circular opening for a round pin... it had an opening that would fit a cross-shaped pin.

Oh no! Those bastards gave me one wrong piece out of the four I needed.
The left piece has an interior cross, the right a circular opening. I needed one more circular piece.

Really. I had three that worked, and one that didn't. It was sort of like the opposite of what happened to the Hayabusa ion engines! Sort of. Work with me on this one.

So... I suppose I could call and bitch to LEGO customer service the next day and then wait two weeks for the stinking part to arrive... I couldn't build without it... it held the wing to the Hayabusa! Just adding one wing would through it off balance and cause it to crash.

This is all true stuff, by the way.

So... I figured I would try and search for a replacement piece by going through my bags and bags of LEGO. Going through shopping bag number three containing just black LEGO weird peieces - I found a replacement.

Snapped it on and powered back on my LEGO build.

I'm not bothering LEGO for a replacement part... they've been too good to me already and I don't want to look like a weenie whining about one missing brick. It's not worth my time, or theirs, or the cost for them to mail me the correct piece. But... if you, dear LEGO, need to know... I did purchase it from your website... if that helps you with quality assurance.

It's done. By the way... you may have noticed a bespectacled male Minifig standing underneath my model. That is a representation of Haybusa project manager Kawaguchi Junichiro (surname first).

You know you have made it as a complete nerd when you have your own LEGO Minifig.

I also love the fact that the kit came with a beautiful, color done square-bound 92-page instruction manual that contained lots of facts about the Hayabusa mission that I have re-written in this blog - to
hopefully make it clearer to you (and to me!).

And here is the final product! Tres cool! I added the blue plates behind it so you didn't have to see me watching some Joss Whedon show and get all jealous.

And even though this opens up so many jokes, I'm going to say it anyway. I had always wanted to go up into space... to be a Captain Kirk-like figure and boldly go where no man had gone before... with some green woman who looks liked Batgirl. Or maybe that's a more recent dream.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Japanese Lithium-Ion Battery At Heart of Boeing's 787 Problems

Boeing has been having issues with its new 787 Dreamliner passenger jet lately - most of which can be shrugged off as birthing pains for the plane - but a recent battery fire aboard a jet has fueled overall concern—especially after Japan ordered a grounding of all 787 planes.

Luckily, the fire occurred aboard the 787 while it was on the tarmac of Logan International Airport in Boston. No one was hurt during the small but intense fire that was only 20 centimeters in width.

For a look at the 787 incidents that led to the grounding, click HERE.

The culprit for the fire is a lithium-ion battery - you can read about that and see a photo of the burned out battery HERE.

The Japan Transport and Safety Board, along with the U.S. FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) have been looking into possible causes for the lithium-ion battery fire, and while they still don't know what caused it, they do know one thing that did NOT cause it.

After a battery used to power many electrical systems overheated aboard an All Nippon Airways (ANA) 787 Dreamliner earlier this month, they noticed there was a quick and sudden drop in voltage. They suspected that it was overcharged.

Turns out, those suspicions were not validated.

Japan Transport Safety Board chairman Goto Norihiro (surname first) says that the plane's data recorder showed the main battery did not exceed its maximum voltage.

The highest voltage recorded for this battery was 31 volts—below the 32 volt limit. So

Okay… so... the easiest solution is not the answer.

The lithium-ion battery is not generally utilized in aircraft, and the hopes for Japanese company GS Yuasa who manufacture the battery have taken a beating with the recent debacle. You can read about that HERE.

All 50 of the 787 Dreamliners delivered globally by Boeing have been been grounded, with Boeing holding back on further deliveries until the electrical battery problem is resolved.

Next up, the FAA and Safety Board will look at the 787's auxiliary battery to compare its data with the damaged one. They are also using JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) for help, looking into the inner workings of the burnt battery via CAT (Computed Axial Tomography) scans to create a 3D image of the inside of the battery. 

Lastly, the schematic drawing of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger jet comes from

Andrew Joseph

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