0

Japan’s Hayabusa 2 Heading To An Asteroid Wednesday

fb share tweet share
Hayabusa and MASCOT lander

Hayabusa and MASCOT lander

With all the news about the exploits of the Philae lander, another daring mission to land a spacecraft on a cosmic body has been overlooked — the Japanese Space Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa 2, which is scheduled to launch on Wednesday and land on an asteroid.

Hayabusa 1 was the second spacecraft to land on an asteroid, following NASA’s NEAR-Shoemaker mission. Hayabusa 1 was the first spacecraft to retrieve and return samples from an asteroid, but despite the mission’s success, not everything went as planned. It actually landed twice on Asteroid 25143 Itokawa in November, 2005 because the spacecraft’s sample retrieval system didn’t operate at full capacity. So while it did manage to extract some samples, they amounted to a small fraction of what JAXA had hoped to retrieve.

0

Japan Plans To Harness Solar Power—From Space

fb share tweet share

space based solar powerMost people acknowledge that we need to find alternate sources of energy, given that peak oil is imminent and the Earth’s resources are finite. Nuclear energy has been advocated by environmentalists, scientists, and organizations who believe that despite the negative stigma, it might be the best alternative to the rapidly depleting fuels we currently rely on. While that may or may not be true, one can hardly blame Japan for seeking alternatives to nuclear energy. A number of sources report that the Fukishima disaster still isn’t really under control and may be leaking more radiation than ever, so Japan is directing its search for viable energy sources elsewhere — namely, space, where solar power is abundant.

0

Japanese Space Agency Will Pick Up Our Space Trash With A Big Magnetic Net

fb share tweet share

space netHumans don’t just litter on planet Earth — our waste has made it all the way to space. But especially after seeing Gravity, it’s difficult to imagine any astronauts wanting to mess with all the space junk out there. So JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, has come up with a solution: a big ol’ magnetic net to round up all our space trash.

There’s far more space junk out there than we could imagine — hundreds of thousands of chunks from our various satellites and other spacecraft are, just as they do in Gravity, orbiting the planet at great speeds. A report released a couple weeks ago by the Congressional Research Service estimates that “roughly 22,000 objects larger than the size of a softball and hundreds of thousands of smaller fragments” litter Earth’s orbit, and that this debris “potentially threatens U.S. national security interests in space, both governmental (military, intelligence, and civil) and commercial.” Even a small object, about 10 centimeters wide,m could destroy a satellite. In 2007, China launched an anti-satellite test — a missile that blew apart one of their old weather satellites and generated a large percentage of the debris mentioned in the earlier figure. Just a couple of years later, a U.S. commercial satellite ran into an old Russian satellite, generating even more debris. There’s so much space trash out there that experts worry that it could cause serious collisions every 5-9 years. Astrophysicist Donald Kessler was worried about this back in the 1970s — the Kessler syndrome is an ongoing process of collisions generating ever more space debris.