Japan to go space sailing
Posted by ampontan on Friday, April 30, 2010
THE AMERICANS and the Russians aren’t the only ones making aerospace news. Next month, Japan will launch the world’s first solar-powered spacecraft. It’s called Ikaros, or the Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun:
Ikaros…marks the first time a space craft will enter deep space towed by solar sails, which provide a fuel-free means to explore the solar system provided the craft is near enough the sun to catch a particle powered breeze. Several prototype space sails have been unfurled in orbit by various agencies including NASA, but as far as long-term propulsion is concerned the Ikaros mission is solar sailing’s coming out party.
The technology is imaginative and sophisticated:
Ikaros’s 46-foot flexible sails are thinner than a human hair and equipped with thin-film solar cells that will generate power for the craft, which mission controllers on the ground will steer by making adjustments to the angle at which incoming radiation strikes the sails.
That’s not all JAXA plans to do:
JAXA’s ambitions are pretty aggressive in the near term in stark contrast to the U.S.’s long-term space exploration approach recently detailed by President Obama…The country plans to spend at least 2 billion dollars on its lunar ambitions over the next decade.
That might be a misspelling. Instead of “detailed by President Obama”, they could have written “derailed by President Obama”.
Whether the JAXA projects will continue might also be at issue. Consider the Finance Ministry-produced government daytime TV programming of clipping the fingernails of national public-sector spending while gluing on the artificial nails of their cash giveaway programs in legal vote-buying schemes. There’s not going to be enough money for everything, unless they decide to heck with it and print some more.
Will the Japanese space program be grounded before ignition and lift-off? Let’s hope not.