Tag: ‘JAXA’

Maido-kun humanoid robot to the moon in 2015

28 Apr 2010

Japanese robots on the moon --

In an ambitious new project unveiled on April 27, an Osaka-area business group has vowed to put a humanoid robot on the moon by 2015.

The business group, known as SOHLA (Space Oriented Higashiosaka Leading Association), made headlines in January 2009 after their Maido-1 lightning observation microsatellite was launched into orbit. Their new project is to develop a bipedal humanoid robot -- named "Maido-kun" -- which can function in the harsh lunar environment. If all goes as planned, Maido-kun will be ready to travel to the moon in 2015.

SOHLA admits there are a number of obstacles to overcome -- most notably the astronomical development costs (now estimated at 1 billion yen, or $10.5 million) -- but they are optimistic about their pursuit and believe it can help stimulate the local economy by getting small and medium sized manufacturers involved in the development of space technology. At present, SOHLA consists of six local enterprises working in partnership with government-affiliated organizations such as the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

In 2005, JAXA announced bold plans to send bipedal humanoid robots to the moon. However, after recognizing the numerous difficulties that the lunar landscape poses for two-legged humanoids, they decided it would be more feasible to send wheeled robots instead.

Wheels may be more practical than legs, but SOHLA board member Noriyuki Yoshida sees an advantage in robots that look like people. "Humanoid robots are glamorous, and they tend to get people fired up," he says. "We hope to develop a charming robot to fulfill the dream of going to space."

JAXA plans to send their first robot rover to the moon in or around 2015, and SOHLA hopes their Maido-kun humanoid will be able to hitch a ride on the same mission.

[Source: Yomiuri]

Space caramel made from giant jellyfish

16 Sep 2009

In the latest move in Japan's war on giant jellyfish, high school students in the town of Obama have developed a new type of caramel candy made from the enormous sea creatures -- and they are offering it up as a snack for astronauts in space.

Echizen kurage, Nomura's jellyfish --
Nomura's jellyfish (Echizen kurage) -- If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em (in space)

The enterprising Obama Fisheries High School students have requested the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to place their chewy treat on the official menu for astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The space agency, which appears to be entertaining the proposal, is reportedly sending a representative to the school tomorrow (September 17) to evaluate the candy.

Described as having a sweet and salty flavor, the caramel's ingredients include sugar, starch syrup, and jellyfish powder, which is obtained by boiling the jellyfish down to a thick paste, drying it, and grinding it into fine particles. The most recent batch of caramel uses powder from Nomura's jellyfish snared last month in fixed fishing nets in nearby Wakasa Bay. The bay is located in Fukui prefecture, which has been among the areas hardest hit by the giant jellyfish swarms in recent years.

Students pose with caramel made from giant jellyfish -- The students began cooking with Nomura's jellyfish three years ago, after a NASA-designed food safety management system was installed at the school. In 2006, after the school developed a method for processing giant jellyfish into an edible powder, a local company began using it as an ingredient in their jellyfish cookies.

Since then, the students have been searching for new ways to use their jellyfish powder. They are hoping to benefit from the recent raw caramel craze sweeping Japan.

[Source: Chunichi]

Moonbell: Lunar music generator

31 Aug 2009

moonbell --

Moonbell is an automated music generator that plays musical scores based on lunar topographical data obtained by Japan's Kaguya (SELENE) explorer during its orbit around the moon from late 2007 to June 2009.

[Launch Moonbell in a new window]

Moonbell, which was developed in cooperation with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), has two playback modes: "Orbit Play" and "Free Scratch." Click the buttons on the bottom right of the screen to switch modes.

moonbell --

In Orbit Play mode, Kaguya traverses the moon in a circular orbit and music is generated based on the topography below. This screen displays Kaguya's orbital path, an altitude graph of the topography, and the corresponding musical notation map. Use your mouse to change Kaguya's location and orbit.

In Free Scratch mode, you can use your mouse to chart a path across the moon's surface. The corresponding music plays in a loop, regardless of how long the path is. The notes are visualized as different colors and patterns on the screen.

moonbell --

To tweak the audio output, click the "Preference" button on the bottom left of the screen. This opens the settings panel, where you can choose from 128 musical instruments for each track, change the playback speed, set the volume for each instrument, and more.

See the "About" page for a complete description of all of Moonbell's functions and controls.

[Link: Moonbell]

Video: Kaguya moon crash

22 Jun 2009

The Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA) has released high-definition video captured by the Kaguya moon probe moments before crashing onto the lunar surface on June 11.


+ Video

The 3D movie was created based on observation data captured about 12 minutes prior to the controlled crash, as the probe headed toward its final destination near the Gill crater. The video goes black at the end as Kaguya moves into the dark area of the moon.

JAXA has also released a few still images of the view during the final approach:

Kaguya moon crash --

Kaguya moon crash --

Kaguya moon crash --

Kaguya moon crash --

[Source: JAXA]

Video: Space stunts

09 Jun 2009

Astronaut Koichi Wakata, who has been living aboard the International Space Station since mid-March, has carried out a series of offbeat space experiments proposed by the Japanese public.


+ Video

The experiments, which the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has dubbed "Try Zero-G," consist mainly of physical exercises and gymnastics (including calisthenics, push-ups, flips, twirls, cartwheels, overhead soccer kicks, and swimming). In addition, Wakata folds clothes, rides a “magic carpet,” squirts water from a syringe, puts eyedrops in his eye, and attempts to propel himself through the room by flapping a fan. He also enlists the help of a fellow astronaut for some arm wrestling, hand-shaking, slap sumo, and tug of war.

[Soundtrack: "Seashell" by Skylab (from the "Skylab#1" CD)]

Low-altitude video of lunar surface (in HD)

05 Jun 2009

In its final days before crashing into the surface of the moon on June 11, Japan's KAGUYA explorer has been shooting high-definition footage of the lunar terrain from low altitude.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which operates the HD camera-equipped probe along with public broadcaster NHK, has uploaded two videos on YouTube.

The first video (embedded above) was shot from an altitude of about 11 kilometers (7 miles) up, at between 45 and 52 degrees south latitude and 262 and 263 degrees east longitude.

The second video, which offers a view of the Antoniadi lunar crater, was shot from an altitude of about 21 kilometers (13 miles) up, at between 64 and 70 degrees south latitude and 186 and 188 degrees east longitude.

After its launch in late 2007, KAGUYA started in orbit about 100 kilometers (62 miles) above the moon. In February 2009 the probe dropped to an altitude of 50 kilometers (31 miles), and in April it dropped to between 10 and 30 kilometers (6 - 19 miles).

The KAGUYA probe will end its scientific exploration of the moon with a controlled impact on the lunar surface. The crash, scheduled for 3:30 AM (Japan standard time) on June 11, 2009 (6:30 PM GMT on June 10, 2009), will occur in the shadow on the near side of the moon, at 63 degrees south latitude and 80 degrees east longitude.

Map showing location of KAGUYA's impact --
The red star shows where KAGUYA is expected to crash

JAXA has not announced whether the probe will film its own demise.

[Link: JAXA // YouTube]

16 offbeat space experiments for the people

20 Mar 2009

International Space Station --

On March 18, astronaut Koichi Wakata arrived at the International Space Station to begin his three-month space sojourn -- the longest ever for a Japanese spaceman. Although much of Wakata's time in space will be devoted to official research and maintenance duties, he plans to set aside a little free time for 16 offbeat experiments proposed by the Japanese public.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) selected the extra experiments from nearly 1,600 proposals they received after asking the public what tests they would like to see performed in space. The 16 experiments are listed here as questions posed to Wakata.

1. Calisthenics: Is it possible to follow an audio-guided workout program in zero gravity?

2. Backflips: On Earth, backflips take a lot of practice and leg strength. How about in zero gravity?

3. Volleying (soccer): Crumple a piece of paper into a ball and try kicking it around. How does the ball behave in zero gravity? Can you volley it?

4. Push-ups: In space, can you do push-ups while facing the ceiling or walls?

5. Cartwheels: In zero gravity, can you rotate yourself continuously like a windmill?

6. Swimming: Try to swim through the air as if you were in water. Can you move forward by swimming? If not, why not?

7. Spin like an ice skater: On Earth, ice skaters can increase their rotation speed by pulling their arms closer in to the body while they spin. Does the same thing happen in zero gravity? If so, what is the reason?

8. Folding clothes: In space, can you fold clothes and put them away as you do on Earth? It seems that the shirt sleeves would be difficult to keep in place. What is the best way to fold clothes in space?

9. Magic carpet: Try to sit on a floating carpet. Magic carpets are a fantasy on Earth, but are they possible in space?

10. Water gun: On Earth, if you squeeze a drink bag, a single stream of liquid shoots out through the straw hole and falls to the ground. How does the liquid behave in zero gravity?

11. Eye drops: On Earth, you have to face upward to put eye drops into your eyes. Is there a better way to do this in zero gravity?

12. Propulsion through space: When floating in zero gravity, how much power do you need in order to propel yourself around? Can you move simply by blowing air from your mouth or by flapping a hand-fan?

The next four activities are to be performed by two people:

13. Arm wrestling
14. Shaking hands
15. Sumo
16. Tug-of-war

JAXA plans to release videos of Wakata's experiments in July.

[Source: JAXA]

Space bling: Video of eclipse from the moon

19 Feb 2009

Diamond ring effect during eclipse on moon --

On February 10, Japan's KAGUYA (a.k.a. SELENE) lunar explorer shot video of the Earth as it passed between the Sun and the Moon. The probe's high-definition cameras captured a rare view of the so-called "diamond ring effect" seen from the Moon. The phenomenon is usually only ever observed during total solar eclipses on Earth, just as the Sun emerges from behind the Moon.


+ Video

This video shows the Sun emerging from behind the Earth, just as they are rising over the lunar horizon. The bead of sunlight peeking over the edge of the planet looks like a diamond on a precious ring.

[Link: JAXA]

Next-generation space toilet ready in five years

05 Jan 2009

Space toilet --

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has teamed up with engineers from the private sector to develop a next-generation space toilet, which they hope to complete within the next five years.

Clean and easy to use, the envisioned space toilet is designed to be worn like a diaper around the astronaut's waist at all times. Sensors detect when the user relieves him or herself, automatically activating a rear-mounted suction unit that draws the waste away from the body through tubes into a separate container. In addition to washing and drying the wearer after each use, the next-generation space toilet will incorporate features that eliminate unwanted sound and odor.

Established last month, JAXA's space toilet research group includes engineers from the private sector. Participants reportedly come from an assortment of toilet and chemical manufacturers, as well as from the architectural and engineering firm Shimizu Corporation. Plans are to test working prototypes of the space toilet in Japan's Kibo lab aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The developers indicate their next-generation space toilet may also prove useful in earthbound settings -- particularly in hospitals with bedridden patients.

The current ISS toilet is a Russian-built, western-style commode that sucks waste away like a vacuum cleaner. Use of that toilet requires practice before heading to space, particularly because an improperly seated user has the potential to create a messy situation.

Chiaki Mukai, head of JAXA's Space Biomedical Research Office, is looking forward to the development of the new toilet. "Long-term stays in space place significant stress on the mind and body," Mukai says. "The toilet plays a crucial role in maintaining good health in space."

[Source: Yomiuri]