Posted by On 2:59 PM

Japanese Cargo Ship Launches Toward Space Station

A robotic Japanese resupply ship has launched toward the International Space Station (ISS), kicking off a five-day orbital chase.

The HTV-7 freighter â€" which is loaded with more than 5 tons (4.5 metric tons) of science gear, food, fuel and other supplies â€" lifted off atop an H-II rocket from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center today (Sept. 22) at 1:52 p.m. EDT (1752 GMT; 2:52 a.m. on Sept. 23 Japan standard time).

If all goes according to plan, HTV-7 will arrive at the orbiting lab early Thursday morning (Sept. 27), NASA officials said.

The Japanese HTV-7 cargo resupply ship launches to the International Space Station on Sept. 22, 2018.

HTV-7 was originally scheduled to take flight Sept. 10, but that liftoff was canceled because Typhoon Mangkhut was forecast to bring terrible weather to Guam, wher e a key Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) tracking station is located. Bad weather around Tanegashima and an issue with the freighter's rocket conspired to delay the liftoff until today.

"HTV" stands for "H-II Transfer Vehicle." The freighter is also known as Kounotori, which means "white stork" in Japanese.

As its name suggests, HTV-7 is the seventh Kounotori mission. The first of these cargo craft launched in September 2009, and the most recent previous mission, HTV-6, lifted off in December 2016.

The International Space Station is the largest structure in space ever built by humans. Let's see how much you know about the basics of this science laboratory in the sky. Start the Quiz Sunlight glints off the International Space Station. 0 of 10 questions complete Cosmic Quiz: Do You Know the International Space Station? The International Space Station is the largest structure in space ever built by humans. Let's see how much you know about the basics of this science laboratory in the sky. Start Quiz 0 of questions complete

The HTV is one of four robotic cargo spacecraft that service the ISS. The other three are Russia's Progress freighter, SpaceX's Dragon capsule and Northrop Grumman's Cygnus vehicle. (Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle, or ATV, completed five ISS cargo missions between 2008 and 2015 but is no longer flying.)

Like Progress and Cygnus, the HTV is designed to burn up in Earth's atmosphere when its time in orbit is up. Dragon, by contrast, is reusable; it survives re-entry and splashes down softly in the ocean under parachutes. Indeed, SpaceX has reflown used Dragons on four ISS cargo missions to date.

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Source: Google News Japan | Netizen 24 Japan


Posted by On 2:59 PM

Japanese probe drops two landers on asteroid


The shadow of Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu as the probe descended to an altitude of around 180 feet where it released two small landers designed to hop about the asteroid's surface.

Nearly four years after launch, Japan's Hayabusa2 space probe dropped to within about 180 feet of an asteroid and released two small landers Friday that are designed to hop about the surface, snapping pictures and charting the ancient body's temperature and chemical composition.

Japanese flight controllers Saturday confirmed successful landings and posted the first photos from Rover-1A and 1B, showing blurred images of the asteroid, known as 162173 Ryugu, as the disk-shaped robots settled to the surface and completed initial hops.

"Although I was disappointed with the blurred image that first came from the rover, it was good to be able to capture this shot as it was recorded by the rover," Tetsuo Yoshimitsu, Hayabusa2 program manager, said in an English version of comments posted on the spacecraft's web page.

"Moreover, with the image taken during the hop on the asteroid surface, I was able to confirm the effectiveness of this movement mechanism on the small celestial body and see the result of many years of research."

Project manager Yuichi Tsuda added: "I cannot find words to express how happy I am that we were able to realize mobile exploration on the surface of an asteroid."


Rover-1B captured this image moments after the lander separated from the Ha yabusa2 spacecraft. The blurry area at upper left was caused by reflected sunlight.

The landers were developed by JAXA, the Japanese space agency, and the University of Aizu. Known collectively as MINERVA-II1, both are equipped a stereo camera, a wide-angle camera and a thermometer, along with a novel mechanism that allows them to hop short distances in the asteroid's weak gravity.

They were released from Hayabusa2 early Friday (U.S. time) at an altitude of 180 feet or so above Ryugu. The landers then slowly fell to the surface.

"We are sorry we have kept you waiting!" JAXA tweeted Saturday. "Both rovers are confirmed to have landed on the surface of Ryugu. They are in good condition and have transmitted photos & data. We also confirmed they are moving on the surface. "

A third lander, known as MASCOT, will be released Oct. 3. It was provided by the German and French space agencies and is equipped with a cam era, an infrared spectrometer, a magnetometer and a radiometer. A fourth lander, Rover-2, will be deployed next year.

All the while, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft will be mapping Ryugu and studying its surface with optical navigation cameras, a near-infrared spectrometer, a thermal-infrared imager and laser system to precisely map the topography of the asteroid.

The successful landings of the first two rovers "made me so happy," said Takashi Kubota, a spokesman for the project. "From the surface of Ryugu, MINERVA-II1 sent a radio signal to the ground station via Hayabusa2. The image taken by MINERVA-II1 during a hop allowed me to relax as a dream of many years came true.

"I felt awed by what we had achieved in Japan," he said. "This is just a real charm of deep space exploration."


An artist's impression of the MINERVA-II1 landers deployed by Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft.

Hayabusa2 was launched atop a Japanese H-2A rocket on Dec. 3, 2014. To reach its target, the spacecraft carried out a gravity-assist flyby of Earth in December 2015, putting the probe on course for arrival at Ryugu last June.

The mission is devoted to learning more about the composition and evolution of C-type, or carbonaceous, asteroids and to test technologies enabling deep space sample collection and techniques for obtaining sub-surface materials for later analysis.

If all goes well, Hayabusa2 will make several attempts to collect up to a gram or so of Ryugu's soil for return to Earth in 2020.

For the first attempt, Hayabusa2 will approach to within a few feet of Ryugu, fire a small projectile into the soil immediately below and use a horn-like collector to capt ure dust and small fragments kicked up by the impact.

To obtain sub-surface samples, Hayabusa2 fill release a five-and-a-half-pound impactor loaded with HMX plastic explosive designed to blast out a crater in the surface. With Hayabusa2 out of harm's way on the other side of Ryugu, the HMX will detonate, blasting a copper impactor into the surface while a free-flying camera released earlier records the impact.

After waiting for the dust to settle in Ryugu's weak gravity, Hayabusa2 will descend into the newly-formed crater to collect pristine soil samples unaffected by solar radiation and other "weathering" effects.

"Learning about asteroids is important for the future of space exploration," Hitoshi Kuninaka, a senior spacecraft manager, said before launch.

"This is a difficult mission, but in order for humans to expand from Earth into space, it will be necessary to meet challenges. We need a lot of technology and information about the solar system, and Hayabusa 2 will make a big step in these areas to help us be ready to plan and collaborate in the next step of space exploration."

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  • William Harwood

    Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He covered 129 space shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2' ;s flyby of Neptune and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia."

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Posted by On 1:42 PM

How Japan's overwork culture affects parents

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Kumi Matsumoto has a problem. She has a full-time job. But she's Japanese, and working full-time in Japan can mean something different than in other place s, like the U.S.

"I think in Japan, working full-time means working 24 hours. I mean full time, 100 percent warrior," she says. "We call it business warriors."

Matsumoto works at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo. That's where she is this morning, seated at a small table in a cafeteria. It's just before 10 a.m. and workers are swiping their ID cards to enter the glass building. Matsumoto loves her job, but she already has another full-time gig â€" her two small children.

And being a business warrior and a parent at the same time "is very, very challenging problem," Matsumoto says. In Japan, long working hours is a serious issue for both women and men. This is a country where karōshi, or death by overwork, is regularly reported in the news. But women are still expected to do most of the child care.

On maternity leave with her second baby, Matsumoto said it was exhausting to be a working mom. "I t's very normal for us to stay until midnight," she told Marketplace at the time. "And sometimes we have to stay til early in the morning, next day."

Matsumoto, who's 43, says she can juggle her kids and work because her husband and her in-laws help. But that kind of support can be rare here. And even with the help, Matsumoto says, it can be hard to manage, especially with two kids. When members of Japan's legislature have to appear to answer questions from the public, which happens a lot, they're often given those questions ahead of time. Part of Matsumoto's job is writing the answers. But most of the time she says she and her co-workers don't know which team will get the assignment, so they all have to wait.

"Not only those sections that receive the question," she explains. "All other sections that may receive the question have to work overtime too, to wait for that question, which is a stupid thing . It's the most stupid thing happening in Japan, I think. But that's been happening for decades."

But things are starting to change. Slowly.

Making long days short

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has pushed for policies to advance women. Only 3.7 percent of executives at publicly traded companies in Japan are female. The country's goal is to have 30 percent of leadership positions across society held by women by 2020. Japan's Gender Equality Bureau, which publishes an annual report on the topic, says progress is being made. For years, only about 40 percent of women returned to work after giving birth to their first child. Now, that figure has increased to 53 percent.

This year's report has a glossy cover, red and sprinkled with white and gold flowers and butterflies. And if you turn to page 29 you'll see this recommendation: "Address long working hours."

All companies and governm ent agencies with more than 300 employees are now required to come up with an "action plan" to increase women's participation at work and to cut down on those long hours. Matsumoto says her office finally has a new policy. If it seems unlikely you will have to work late, you can just go home â€" as long as you keep checking your smartphone. But Matsumoto says not many of her colleagues took advantage of the new policy.

"They're like, 'We are staying late anyway.' And I was like, 'No, it's a miracle, it's amazing, it's awesome,'" she says.

But her colleagues said they were working late anyway, so they didn't need the smartphone alert. So Matsumoto has a big choice to make. In Japan, many employers ask their workers to choose between two career paths â€" management or the "mommy" track, an option with less responsibility and potential for advancement.

"The struggle is that whether or not I should just go the easy way," Matsumoto says. "Or go the hard way to change the society."

The easy way, says Matsumoto, would be the mommy track.

"I remember about 10 years ago when I was working in Tokyo," she says. "There was only one mommy in the whole division. And she was always, always saying sorry. 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I have to go home.' And it was very sad to see that kind of thing."

But now there are more working mothers in Japan and they're apologizing less. And while that atmosphere represents a big change, Matsumoto says it's not enough. Japan's problems are all tangled up, says Mitsuki Horiuchi of the Kitakyushu Forum on Asian Women, an NGO focused on the advancement of women.

Until things get easier for women in the workplace, many will continue not to have babies. And without more babies Japan's workforce will continue to shrink. "We have to c hange two things," Horiuchi says. "One, the working style. People have to take holidays. Have to enjoy the family life."

If not, says Horiuchi, the country will face more problems. Because while the workforce is shrinking, one part of Japan's population is growing â€" the elderly.

"And then the question is not just only childcare, but aging care," she says.

Japan is running out of people to care for its aging population. That means the problems that working mothers face are increasingly affecting everyone. Horiuchi says the government is making an effort to address the imbalances, like a new law passed in May calling for political parties to have equal numbers of male and female candidates. But the law doesn't have any teeth, Horiuchi says.

"The law only is only encouragement, not obligation, for the political party."

Only about 10 percent of Japan's Parliament is made up of women. That means it ran ks lower than 150 other countries â€" including Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. But Horiuchi says it's not just the government. Companies also need to take responsibility to hire and promote more women. Still, Horiuchi says the status of women is changing.

"It used to be that women â€" if you don't marry by my age, then everybody asks you why?" she says. "Women should marry. Your parents must be very worried about you. Why are you single? Because women thought that maybe happiness should be marriage or something, but nowadays no one really pushes you to marry."

Going home

Last night Matsumoto stayed in the office til 8 p.m., but tonight she has to leave earlier. "I actually emailed to all my colleagues in my division that I have to go home at 5. I have to leave office at 5:30 sharp. And I really have to leave office by 5:30 to pick up my children. My husband cannot do it. So, I'm just telling every body that I really have to go."

It can be hard to leave early, Matsumoto says, when everyone else is staying late. "It's just a group mind. I think that when everybody's working hard, it takes courage to go home early. That's one thing," she says. "But I'm a very vocal type of person that I'm the kind of who can just tell everybody I have to go home at 5:30. A lot of working mothers are not that vocal."

Those mothers, she says, are having a hard time adjusting. But Matsumoto is quick to point out that making a big life shift doesn't only affect moms. It also affects working fathers. When working dads, used to staying at the office as late as midnight, leave hours earlier it can cause problems at home.

"Some working fathers try really hard to go home around like 8:30," she says. "But then their wives said 8:30 is when the baby sleeps. And if they come when the baby is about to fall asleep, the y actually bother the baby. I heard some wives ask them, 'If you do not come back early enough, then please stay late enough so as not to bother the baby.'"

Everyone will need to shift, says Matsumoto.

"We always say that in order for women to work in workplace, the man has to change and the whole society has to change," Matsumoto says. "It's not just for mommies, it's also for single women or a couple without children who are trying to have a baby."

A few years ago, Matsumoto founded a support group for mothers and fathers at her office. At first that's who came to meetings â€" moms and dads. But now, even workers without kids are coming because they want to figure out how to find the time to have kids one day too.

This article originally appeared at PRI's The World.

Source: Google News Japan | Netizen 24 Japan


Posted by On 1:42 PM

Two Japanese robots are now happily hopping on an asteroid [Updated]

Article intro image
Enlarge / The Hayabusa2 spacecraft spies its shadow Thursday night as it descends toward Ryugu to deploy two small rovers.

Saturday update: More than 24 hours after they were released by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft to fly down to the surface of the asteroid Ryugu, the Japanese Space Agency has finally provided an update on the fate of the two tiny robots. And they're doing quite well indeed.

"We are sorry we have kept you waiting!" the space agency, JAXA, tweeted. "MINERVA-II1 consists of two rovers, 1a & 1b. Both rovers are confirmed to have landed on the surface of Ryugu. They are in good condition and have transmitted photos & data. We also confirmed they are moving on the surface."

Then, the rovers shared some pictures, including these two.

Just knowing that two tiny robots are now hopping merrily around an asteroid with almost no gravity makes our own world seem a little bit merrier.

Original post: Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft hasn't garnered much attention in the western world, but on Friday night the 609kg vehicle attempted something rather amazing. The spacecraft descended from its station-keeping orbit 20km above a small asteroid down to just 60 meters, and there it deployed two miniature rovers bound for the surface.

Each weighed only about a kilogram, and after separating from the main spacecraft they approached the asteroid named Ryugu. Japanese mission scientists think the rovers touched down successfully, but are not completely sure. Communication with the two landers stopped near the moment of touchdown.

This is presumably because Ryugu's rotation took the rovers out of view from t he Hayabusa2 spacecraft, but scientists won't know for sure until later Friday (or Saturday morning, in Japan) when they attempt to download images from the rovers. And thus we are left with a suspenseful situation.

Sampling the rock

Hayabusa2 launched from Earth back in November, 2014, aboard a Japanese H-IIA rocket, and arrived in the vicinity of Ryugu in June of this year. The innovative mission will spend the rest of this year and nearly all of 2019 at Ryugu. In addition to this rover landing attempt, the spacecraft will also try to sample the asteroid and bring some of the material back to Earth.

This is a daring sample maneuver. It will see the spacecraft deploy an impactor, which in turn will fire a 10-millimeter projectile with a mass of 5 grams into the surface. This should create a small crater and, about two weeks later, allow Hayabusa2 to return and collect a pristine interior sample from the asteroid. If all goes well, the spacecraft will dep art the asteroid in December 2019 and return to Earth about a year later, landing in a remote part of Australia.

One of the purposes of Thursday night's rover landing attempt is to gather images of and data about the surface of Ryugu in preparation for the sampling attempt. If they survived the landing, the two 7cm-tall, cylinder shaped rovers will "hop" across the surface and replenish their power with solar cells.

Discovered in 1999 by astronomers in New Mexico, Ryugu is a near-Earth asteroid that orbits the Sun every 16 months, roughly between the orbits of Earth and Mars. It measures about 920 meters across, and its relative proximity to Earth makes it a good candidate for a sampling mission like Hayabusa2.

The spacecraft is so named because of a previous Japanese mission, Hayabusa, that explored the asteroid Itokawa about a decade ago. It returned a small amount of material, about 1,500 grains of rock, from the surface of the asteroid. Hayabu sa2 was built after learning from the original mission, and seeks to study its asteroid in greater depth, return a greater amount of material, and deliver insights about the origins of the Solar System.

Eric Berger Eric Berger is the senior space editor at Ars Technica, covering everything from astronomy to private space to NASA. A certified meteorologist, Eric lives in Houston.Source: Google News Japan | Netizen 24 Japan


Posted by On 1:35 AM

Japan's Hayabusa 2 mission lands on the surface of a distant asteroid

  1. Japan's Hayabusa 2 mission lands on the surface of a distant asteroid TechCrunch
  2. Asteroid Ryugu: Japan lands two space rovers on asteroid 170 MILLION miles from Earth
  3. Japan lowers rovers onto 'dumpling' asteroid, hopeful of historic touchdown Fox News
  4. Full coverage
Source: Google News Japan | Netizen 24 Japan