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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Pass it on: Popular Science

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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Pass it on: New Scientist

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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Pass it on: Popular Science

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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Pass it on: New Scientist

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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Pass it on: New Scientist

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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Pass it on: New Scientist