Reader comments are listed below. Comments are currently closed and new comments are no longer being accepted.
Congratulations to Jaxa and the Japanese people. It should be no surprise that the first solar sail comes from the islands that invented origami.
In these hard times, money still needs to be found to push forward the boundaries of science. If space missions need cut backs, then leaving out human flight for a few decades and concentrating on robotic science missions is definitely a better use of money.
@Home412AD, don't be so cynical. Where space is concerned, every achievement is a baby step compared to what's out there, and the research is useful whether it's successful or not. To launch a probe to a distant asteroid and return it to Earth seven years later is an achievement in itself.
Congratulations to Japan and JAXA for continuing to innovate in space science when others seem committed to inward-looking missions and repeating the past. Projects like asteroid missions and solar sails are the ones that inspire us to explore the universe, no matter how minor they might seem.
Congratulations on the solar sail Japan. One more slice of science fiction is condemmed to being a mere fact.
That should help with making (very) long term expansion away from Earth orbit an affordable possiblity - send supplies, robots and kit ahead first then people at a more reasonable pace. And once it becomes affordable it becomes a lot more likely.
"Britain’s aborted space programme were launched from the 1950s to the 1970s. Japan’s space programme has, so far, been a lot more successful than Britain’s was. Thoughtful Japanese, looking at their country’s debt and wondering what might be cut to reduce it, may regard the coincidence as a bad omen."
Geez wat a grudging approval! Why can't we jus congratulate the Japanese from the bottom of our hearts. I wonder if it's due to the fact that the people who write these articles mostly hail from the island where the weather is RAINY on most days and things are GLOOMY almost always!
On a different note, UK had a space agency? News to me. Anyways thumbs up and hats off to ESA. Is it a French baby? Nah jus kidding LOLZ!
Good for Japan!
Two of today's articles detailing significant accomplishments in space exploration - could it be that we are finally entering a new age of innovation in space science? I can only hope that this is the case, and the more countries who invest in the technologies, the quicker humanity as a whole will benefit from such innovation.
Not even homer412ad's mother recommended him. Maybe he got too excited but I'm sure she will mull over his next little contribution.
"Ironically, the place JAXA chose to land Hayabusa’s capsule is also the place from which the Black Knight, Black Arrow and Blue Streak rockets of Britain’s aborted space programme were launched from the 1950s to the 1970s."
It wasn't really a space programme, more a nuclear missile programme. It became moot when the US allowed Britain access to Polaris.
@ NOm Deplume
Please never use the words UN and efficient in the same paragraph. I cannot think of any organistion less worthy of the term efficient.
Fortunately space exploration and research, much like medicine, does foster a lot of collaboration between scientists who often pay scant regard to geographical boundaries in the pursuit of knowledge. Go Globalisation and the free movement of people and ideas all around the tiny rock we call home.
The writer didn't learn how many world's first achievements were packed in this single project and what were their significance. The project was not just about sample return. Yet meteorites, burnt in the air, are not comparable to raw samples.
commonsensical wrote: "Geez wat a grudging approval!"
Ha ha ha! I had the same impression. On the other hand, several weeks ago TE wrote about BP's topkill as though it was going to be a technological feat. This international newspaper cannot leave out their little nationalism after all?
Homy412 wrote: "One. The asteroid landing mission was a complete failure from beginning to end. The only way it could have been worse was if the lander module had never come back to Earth at all. As it is, the mission was a total waste of every penny spent on it, and the entire exercise will need to be done again. Hopefully, with a competent design team the next time."
Hmm. I thought it was fun and those hitches were thrilling. But maybe you should elaborate a bit more why it was a total waste. I might even agree with you, though I don't think we always live for practical value.
Yes, completion of any space mission is something of an accomplishment, but there are legitimate questions here that should temper our enthusiasm.
1 - While it will be nice to measure solar wind directly, it will probably be so slight as to be useless with respect to propulsion (too slow for people or exploration, too feeble for cargo).
2 - The asteroid mission was supposed to fire a projectile to loosen debris. That failed to happen. Consequently, it may have failed to collect any useful quantity of material at all.
So while it is nice to know that the Japanese are active and competent co-explorers, the jury is still out on these two missions.
With so many successful space programs I really wish we could turn over space 'research' to the UN. That would be so much more efficient. If we combined what we all currently spend on our space programs into one big pile and then had only one administration to pay for managing it we would most definitely send people to Mars this decade. Good on you JAXA! push the boundaries of knowledge even further forward!
You know how it is. Space stories always attact only the lunatic-fringe kooks and adolescent, starry-eyed dreamers, without a shred of practicality to their names. We're talking about people who believe in UFOs and Atlantis. It's truly unfair to them to expect rationality or common sense. Story-telling escapism is the toughest road they can handle.
Horsesh*t. A waste of money is a waste of money, whether it's a party for a politician's wife or a brainless rocket into space. I'm not cynical, you're living in a fairytale fantasy world. Go read some more juvenile science fiction, for crying out loud. Let adults run the real world.
One. The asteroid landing mission was a complete failure from beginning to end. The only way it could have been worse was if the lander module had never come back to Earth at all. As it is, the mission was a total waste of every penny spent on it, and the entire exercise will need to be done again. Hopefully, with a competent design team the next time.
Two. Unfurling a miniscule solar sail is a cute little baby step video. However, even if it doesn't work that will be no evidence of anything, since 200 square meters is nothing. Two hundred square kilometers might be worth reading a news article about. Now that would be a legitimate, valid experiment. Perhaps some day, some country with a real, honest space program will do it. In the meantime, apparently some people are stuck playing their juvenile games with these broken children's toys.
"Please never use the words UN and efficient in the same paragraph. I cannot think of any organistion less worthy of the term efficient."
LOLZ u beat me to it! No offence but only sanctimonious holier-than-thou little European countries who (for some reason!) wanna punch waayyy over their weight take UN seriously.
Comments and tweets on popular topics
Subscribe to The Economist's free e-mail newsletters and alerts.
Subscribe to The Economist's latest article postings on Twitter
See a selection of The Economist's articles, events, topical videos and debates on Facebook.