NASA, JAXA. And, “Where have you gone, Major Matt Mason?”
So, the United States’ 30-year Space Shuttle program is over. This digs rather deep for me because I was a kid in elementary school when the Apollo Program was in its heyday. I visited the Kennedy Space Center in July 1972 (after Apollo 16, before Apollo 17) and even had a Major Matt Mason. I have a college friend who’s a NASA Branch Head (and, incidentally, has seen the Yomiuri Giants play at The Big Egg — me, I’m a Tigers fan — and he’s been to Miyajima – he’s in the Japan Club, definitely), so all of this hits close to home for me. My friend, let’s call him “Agent K,” sent me this yesterday, part of what he’s up to and part of what’s going on with NASA right now (this vid’s just a couple days old):
This is a mock-up — but with the same dimensions and weight — of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) that will top the next generation of NASA heavy-lift launch vehicle. Those dimensions and weight? 5 m (16.5 ft) diameter with a weight of 8,913 kg (19,650 lb). It’s big.
Also, NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced this week that a landing site has been set for the Mars Science Laboratory (which I saw getting built on a 2008 visit to JPL, near Pasadena, thankyouverymuch), which will, hopefully, launch sometime after Thanksgiving (late November or early December) this year.
JAXA – Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
As I write this — on July 23, 2011 — Japanese Astronaut Dr. Satoshi Furukawa is orbiting earth aboard the International Space Station. He’s primarily focused on conducting experiments in “KIBO,” the Japan Experimental Module (JEM) that’s part of the ISS. Dr. Furukawa’s experiments include:
“[T]he second ‘Production of Two Dimensional NanoTemplate in Microgravity (2D-NanoTemplate)’, and deployed Area PADLES (Passive Dosimeter for Life science Experiments in space) for monitoring the cosmic radiation environment of fixed points in Kibo.”
He’s also growing Micro-G Cucumbers. My college room mate is now a cucumber farmer in Anjo-shi, Aichi-ken (just outside of Nagoya). Small world.
JAXA’s taken the world lead (the U.S. used to have that spot until Congress decided it no longer wanted the U.S. to be a leader in space science) in developing solar sail technology. Japan’s solar sail is called IKAROS. NASA is going forward with developing solar sail technology, but in fits and starts and without a comprehensive game plan, timeline, milestones. That’s all it can do, though, given the disfunctional and schizophrenic Congress we have now that stands behind NASA with all the strength and fortitude of a mound of quivering tapioca.
Meanwhile . . . China says it’s going to put a man on the moon as early as 2025-30, which would be very cool. And only 56 years behind the U.S. If the almost treasonous U.S. Congress will ever get its act together, hopefully NASA and the U.S.’s space program will be somewhat beyond that in 15-20 years.
. . .
Addendum: “Close to Home, Part II.” I’m an attorney, but haven’t litigated in years. See my “About” page if you want to know what I mostly do these days. Anyway, a unique set of circumstances has brought me back into the Courtroom, back into the world of litigation. Well, I hope we don’t have to litigate the matter, that it can be resolved by a settlement without my having to file a lawsuit on behalf of a friend, my client, whose Dodge Caravan was demolished when another driver ran a red light in Huntsville, Alabama, less than 30 days ago. On July 11, less than two weeks ago, I went to the accident scene and took some photos, just snapshots. The photo below was taken within 10 or so feet (less than 3 meters) from where the two vehicles collided:
Yes, that’s a Saturn V (R) and a Saturn IB (L). You’re looking towards the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Huntsville is where much (most) of the design work has taken place on NASA’s most famous launch vehicles and their engines. Huntsville (and NASA/JAXA) has had numerous Japan connections over the years. Here’s a conference hosted at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center last year which featured various JAXA researchers and representatives.