Tag: Japan

A Japanese Spacecraft Just Landed Two Rovers On An Asteroid

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Minerva-II1 rover captured this view of asteroid Ryugu (bottom) and the Hayabusa2 spacecraft (at top right) just after the rover separated from the spacecraft on Sept. 21, 2018.

The suspense is over: Two tiny hopping robots have successfully landed on an asteroid called Ryugu — and they’ve even sent back some wild postcards from their new home.

The tiny rovers are part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 asteroid sample-return mission.

Engineers with the agency deployed the robots early Friday (Sept. 21), but JAXA waited until today (Sept. 22) to confirm the operation was successful and both rovers made the landing safely.

The rovers are part of the MINERVA-II1 program, and are designed to hop along the asteroid’s surface, taking photographs and gathering data.

In fact, one of the initial images sent home by the hoppers is awfully blurry, since the robot snapped it while still on the go.




In order to complete the deployment, the main spacecraft of the Hayabusa2 mission lowered itself carefully down toward the surface until it was just 180 feet (55 meters) up.

After the rovers were on their way, the spacecraft raised itself back up to its typical altitude of about 12.5 miles above the asteroid’s surface (20 kilometers).

The MINERVA-II1B rover captured this view of asteroid Ryugu on Sept. 21, 2018 shortly after separating from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft. The asteroid appears at lower right.

The agency still has two more deployments yet to accomplish before it can rest easy: Hayabusa2 is scheduled to deploy a larger rover called MASCOT in October and another tiny hopper next year.

And of course, the main spacecraft has a host of other tasks to accomplish during its stay at Ryugu — most notably, to collect a sample of the primitive world to bring home to Earth for laboratory analysis.

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This Mechanical Instructor Can Guide And Teach Anyone How To Dance

waltz robot

Researchers have developed a waltzing robot that can teach people how to dance. This robot can take the lead, allowing the robot to teach dance sequences.

While the system has been developed for dancing, it could also have other applications including physical rehabilitation and sports training.

The system adjusts its difficulty mode based on the user’s number of previous practices and performance history.




The bot, which stands 1.8 meters tall (5 feet 9 inches), was designed by researchers at Tohoku University in Japan.

According to the authors of the study, the bot its designed for contact with adults with heights ranging from 1.5 meters (4 feet 9 inches) to 1.9 meters (6 feet two inches) meters tall.

It has a force sensor and two laser rangefinders to track movements, which are compared against motion-capture data originally recorded from professional dancers.

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Japanese Scientists Use Egg Whites For Clean Energy

The new method will help “bring us closer to our ultimate goal of providing hydrogen from water, according to Yusuke Yamada, a professor at Osaka City University.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is currently mass-produced using natural gas or fossil fuels, which result in greenhouse gas emissions.

It can be produced in laboratories without fossil fuels and scientists have traditionally done this by creating a special interaction of the molecules in liquid.




But free-moving and randomly located molecules and particles in the fluid can interact with the process of producing hydrogen and scientists have for many years looked to find a way to immobilise these particles.

Rose Bengal

Yamada’s team used a protein found in egg whites to build crystals with lots of tiny holes to trap these particles. These lysozyme crystals have a highly ordered nanostructure and improve the efficiency of clean hydrogen production.

The molecular components within the crystals must be manipulated carefully. This is achieved by the application of Rose Bengal, which is commonly used in a dye in eye drops to identify damage.

If you use hydrogen as an energy source, it only releases water in the environment. It is extremely environmentally friendly.

We found protein was a useful tool” to generate hydrogen in a laboratory without using a fossil fuel, said Yamada.

The method was published in the February edition of the scientific journal Applied Catalysis B.

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Scientists Who Have Grown A Human Ear On The Back Of A Rat Say They Will Be Able To Use Them In Humans In Five Years

Human ears to could be ‘grown to order’ within five years, claim Japanese scientists who have unveiled a rat with an ear on its back.

The Tokyo and Kyoto university technology could be used to help children born with facial abnormalities, as well as youngsters mauled by dogs.

Adults, including soldiers injured in battle of people who have suffered accidents, could also benefit. At the moment, replacement ears are sculpted from cartilage taken from the patient’s ribs.




However, multiple operations are needed, plus the removal of the cartilage is painful and chest never fully heals.

In contrast, the new technique would require just a small sample of cells as starting material. Plus, the finished ear would be a living thing and so should grow with the child.

The scientists began by turning human stem cells – ‘master cells’ – into cartilage cells.

The lab-grown cartilage was then formed into tiny balls and placed in inside plastic tubes shaped like a human ear on a rat’s back.

After two months, the framework dissolved, leaving behind what looks like a two-inch hear lying flat against the animal’s back.

The technique is one of several being perfected around the world, in the aim of making bespoke replacements for body parts damaged by accidents, ravaged by disease or malformed at birth.

Doctors in London have grown a nose from scratch, using the patient’s arm to nurture it, rather than a rat’s back.

They have also built an artificial windpipe and say that eventually it may even be possible to grow a whole face in the lab.

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Japanese Rocket Launches Two Satellites Into Orbit

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched two satellites into space Friday (Dec. 22) on separate missions to study the Earth and test new ion engine technology.

A JAXA H-2A rocket launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan carrying the Global Change Observation Mission-Climate (GCOM-C) satellite and the Super Low Altitude Test Satellite (SLATS).

Liftoff occurred at 8:26 p.m. EST (0126 GMT) on Friday, though the local time was 10:26 a.m. Saturday Japan Standard Time.




The GCOM-C satellite, nicknamed Shikisai (which means “Color” in Japanese), is an Earth-observing satellite designed to be the first in a pair to monitor Earth’s climate from space over 15 years.

It carries instruments to study Earth’s carbon cycle, clouds, aerosols, ocean color, vegetation, and snow and ice, according to a JAXA mission description.

GCOM is expected to play an important role in monitoring both global water circulation and climate change, and examining the health of Earth from space,” JAXA officials wrote.

The SLATS satellite (nicknamed Tsubame, or “Swallow”) is on a technology demonstration mission to test how ion engines could help keep satellites aloft in “super low orbits” below 186 miles.

Such a low orbit will subject SLATS to 1,000 times the atmospheric drag on satellites in higher orbits between 372 and 497 miles (600-800 km), JAXA officials said.

Even the International Space Station is in a higher orbit of about 248 miles (400 km).

JAXA’s successful satellite launch on Friday came just over one minute before another rocket launch.

The U.S. spaceflight company SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 Iridium Next communications satellites into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The launch created dazzling views for spectators across Southern California.

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World’s Heaviest Bony Fish Identified And Correctly Named

Last December 6 in Tokyo, the world’s heaviest bony fish ever caught – weighing a whopping 2,300 kilogrammes – has been identified and correctly named by Japanese experts.

The fish is a Mola alexandrini bump-head sunfish, and not a member of the more commonly known Mola mola ocean sunfish species as originally thought, according to researchers from Hiroshima University.

Bony fish have skeletons made of bone rather than cartilage, as is the case for sharks or rays.

In the study, published in the journal Ichthyological Research, researchers led by Etsuro Sawai referred to more than one thousand documents and specimens from around the world – some of which date back 500 years.

Their aim was to clarify the scientific names for the species of the genus Mola in fish.




They also solved a case of mistaken identity. The Guinness World Records lists the world’s heaviest bony fish as Mola mola, researchers said.

However, Sawai’s team found a female Mola alexandrini specimen of 2,300 kilogramme and 2.72 meter caught off the Japanese coast in 1996 as the heaviest bony fish ever recorded.

Sawai’s team re-identified it as actually being a Mola alexandrini based on its characteristic head bump, chin bump and rounded clavus although this specimen was identified Mola mola until now.

Ocean sunfishes count among the world’s largest bony fish, and have for centuries attracted interest from seafarers because of their impressive size and shape, researchers said.

Specimens can measure up to three meters (total length), and many weighing more than two thousand kilogrammes have been caught.

Instead of a caudal fin, sunfish have a broad rudder-like lobe called a clavus, they said.

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North Korea Fires Missile Towards Japan – Possibly Its Most Powerful Yet

North Korea has conducted a night test of a long-range ballistic missile that landed off the coast of Japan, triggering a South Korea test-launch in response and bringing a return to high tension to the region after a lull of more than two months.

The Pentagon issued a statement saying that the weapon tested was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Initial reports from Seoul suggested that it came from a mobile launcher and was fired at about 3am local time.

The missile was reported to have flown for 50 minutes on a very high trajectory, reaching 4,500 km above the earth before coming down nearly 1,000 km from the launch site off the west coast of Japan.

This would make it the most powerful of the three ICBMs North Korea has tested so far.




Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, condemned the missile launch as a “violent act” that “can never be tolerated” and called for an emergency meeting of the UN security council.

David Wright, a physicist and missile expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, calculated that on a normal trajectory, rather than a high lofted one, the missile would have a range of 13,000 km, enough to reach Washington, the rest of the US west coast, Europe or Australia.

Furthermore, the mobile night launch appeared aimed at testing new capabilities and demonstrating that Pyongyang would be able to strike back after any attempt at a preventative strike against the regime.

It went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken,” James Mattis, the US defence secretary, told reporters.

It’s a research and development effort on their part to continue building ballistic missiles that can threaten anywhere in the world.

Mattis added the North Korean missile programme “threatens world peace, regional peace and certainly the United States”.

President Trump, who had insisted that North Korean development of an ICBM would not happen during his presidency, said: “We will take care of it … it is a situation that we will handle.

The missile was launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, and travelled about 1,000 km before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, within Japan’s economic exclusion zone.

“We are working with our interagency partners on a more detailed assessment of the launch,” Pentagon spokesman Col Robert Manning said.

Within minutes of the launch, the South Korean joint chiefs of staff announced Seoul had carried out an exercise involving the launch of a “precision strike” missile, signalling that it was primed to respond immediately to any attack from the North.

It was the first North Korean ballistic missile test since 15 September and followed a warning earlier this month from Donald Trump that North Korean threats to strike the US and its allies would be a “fatal miscalculation”.

The launch also marked a rebuff to Russia, which had claimed the previous day that the pause in missile launches suggested that Pyongyang was ready to defuse tensions in line with a proposal from Moscow and Beijing that North Korea could freeze missile and nuclear tests in exchange for a scaling down of US and allied military exercises.

Mira Rapp-Hooper, an expert on Asia-Pacific security at Yale Law School and the Centre for a New American Security, said that the night launch “matters because that’s when they’d launch under operational conditions.

Abe told reporters: “We will never give in to provocative acts [by North Korea],” adding that the international community would put “maximum pressure” on North Korea to abandon its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme.

Abe said Japan had lodged a “strong protest” with the regime in Pyongyang, which he accused of ignoring other countries’ “united, strong will for a peaceful solution”.

He added: “The international community needs to work in unison to fully implement sanctions.

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Plastic Junk Brought Invasive Species to U.S. After Japan’s 2011 Tsunami

In 2011, a massive earthquake shook Japan and reshaped the seafloor. The quake shoved an area the size of Connecticut up by 30 feet.

The tsunami that followed killed roughly 18,000 people. As water swamped the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, three reactors melted down. Japan’s wounds are still healing.

The tsunami swept 5 million tons of debris into the ocean. Much of the junk did not degrade. Fiberglass boats, far-flung buoys and plastic shards swirled through the Pacific.

Some of the objects came to rest half a world away, like the 60-foot-long polystyrene and concrete dock that landed in Oregon in the summer of 2012.

The dock completed its 4,000-mile journey by beaching itself close to Oregon State University’s Marine Science Center.




A university biologist who specialized in marine invasive species was one of the first people to approach it. Researchers later discovered that the dock harbored close to 100 Japanese species.

That was the neon light,” said marine biologist James Carlton, a Williams College professor based in Mystic, Conn. “That was the harbinger of things to come.”

Carlton and a team of fellow scientists realized the Pacific Northwest faced a flood — not of water but borne by it, of unsinkable junk caked with marine life.

No one could stop the flood, but the researchers could at least document it. The scientists created a network of volunteers in Hawaii and Alaska, down the Pacific Northwest to the middle of California.

State and local officials, park rangers and legions of citizen scientists reported or bagged up what became known, in the biologists’ lingo, as JTMDs: Japanese tsunami marine debris.

If a boat landed on the beach in San Francisco,” Carlton said, “I’d get a call in my lab within a couple of hours.

The JTMDs ferried a lot of animals, as the scientists described in a paper published Thursday in the journal Science.

During six years of study, from June 2012 to February, Carlton and his colleagues counted more than 280 species of Japanese hitchhikers on 600 pieces of debris.

Most were spineless marine critters: sea stars, sea slugs, oysters, barnacles, mussels, amphipods, bryozoa and isopods. Only a few alien arrivals, two species of Japanese fish, had backbones.

This was unlike anything Carlton had witnessed in his 50 years of studying marine invasions, he said. “As time went on, the eyebrows keep going higher and higher. The jaw keeps dropping lower and lower.”

Although the scale of the event was unprecedented, the concept — that rafts carry animals across oceans — was not.

Transoceanic crossings have happened for millions of years.

A recent genetic study of trapdoor spiders found that they must have crossed on a raft from Africa to Australia a few million years ago.

The spider relatives on each continent were too closely related to have last shared an ancestor when Africa and Australia were still geologically connected, some 100 million years back.

Humans have witnessed these arrivals, too. In one well-documented case, 15 iguanas floated atop a cluster of uprooted trees to the Caribbean island of Anguilla in 1995.

The lizards have since established a breeding population on the island.

Of the Japanese species that arrived on the tsunami debris, about a third were already present on the American Pacific coast.

But the foreign animals colonized the wreckage long before the debris came close to shore, Carlton said. The authors of the recent study tracked how currents propelled the debris.

The JTMDs spent the bulk of their journey at sea. “It comes to shore within a few days, acquired by the coastal current — and then, bam! Onto the beach.

The debris at sea becomes like “traveling villages,” Fraser said. “Many rafting organisms brood their young — so their kids grow up on the same raft.” A raft doesn’t have to be artificial.

Fraser and her colleagues tracked marine life that moved hundreds of miles while attached to floating kelp.

Tsunami debris continues to wash up along the Pacific Northwest, most frequently following spring currents. Carlton said he expects the objects and their living cargo to arrive for the next 10 springs to come.

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The Hermit Crab With The Cool, Modern, Expandable Home

Hermit crabs are so much more than just shells with legs sticking out of them.

To begin with, some of them have a lot of personality: 40-year-old Jonathan Livingston Crab, for instance, follows his owner around, hangs out at her feet, and waits for her at the front door.

And they bravely face vulnerable moments in the dangerous sea, when they transfer from one shell to another as they grow.

A newly described species of hermit crab, found in the shallows of the Amami Islands, north of Okinawa, is done with this process of shifting from one shell to the next.

Instead, it resides in living coral, which grows with it. No upsizing required—just pure crustacean real estate bliss.




Diogenes heteropsammicola is not the first known species of hermit crab that uses an expandable home.

A South African crab discovered in 2013 lives in a soft mass of gooey sand and extendable organic matter, made up of colonies of sea anemones.

But only this tiny, gangly new cousin is known to live within coral this way. The coral homes themselves have a somewhat retro-futuristic aesthetic—great pinkish domes that resemble a designer lamp.

The hermit crabs seem to be into their modern architecture. They’re house-proud, and meticulously brush stray detritus away.

But although they may be new to us, these hermit crabs have been living symbiotically with coral for a very long time.

The crab’s long, thin tail and spindly arms are well suited to fitting into the coral’s cavity, which is usually inhabited by a marine worm that also shares a symbiotic relationship with the coral.

Hermit crab hind ends usually spiral to fit shells, but these crabs are more symmetrical, to fit well in the coral. There are advantages for the coral, too.

In the journal article, published in PLOS ONE, researchers describe how the crab “carries the host coral and prevents the coral from being buried.

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