野口飛行士 宇宙の新時代を開く活躍を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 22, 2009)
Noguchi's ISS trip heralds new era for space activity
野口飛行士 宇宙の新時代を開く活躍を(12月22日付・読売社説)

Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi safely departed for the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz rocket.

Noguchi will stay aboard the ISS for about six months.

His stay will be the longest that a Japanese astronaut has experienced. We hope he will steadily fulfill his duty in international space cooperation and enhance Japan's international presence.

Unlike a past stay by a Japanese astronaut, Noguchi plans to stay for about six months and has a private room.

Construction of the ISS is near completion. The number of residents there will increase from the initial two to the maximum of six by next spring, when Noguchi will still be at the station.

We can now say that the ISS is in full operation, and world space activities have entered a new age.

Noguchi is expected to not only conduct space experiments for Japan, but also support the operation and maintenance of the station and experiments carried out by other countries, including one the United States plans to ascertain the perceptual effect of sleeping drugs. Noguchi himself will be involved in the U.S. experiment by taking the drugs.


Soyuz a trusted spacecraft

As part of leisure and public relations activities designed to promote international space cooperation, Noguchi will make sushi in space. He will be very busy with various missions in the ISS, but we hope he will relax and carry out his duties.

This is the first time that an official Japanese astronaut will use the Soyuz capsule for a return trip from the Earth to space.  日本の公式の宇宙飛行士が地上との往復にソユーズ宇宙船を利用するのも、今回が初めてだ。

Past Japanese astronauts used U.S. space shuttles, but the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration is preparing to retire its aging space shuttle fleet after the completion of construction of the ISS in the spring. Traveling into space means relying on Russia until the United States develops a new spacecraft. The launch of the Soyuz rocket this time is the first case under such circumstances.

The vital structures of the Soyuz spacecraft have been kept, and other parts have been steadily improved over the past four decades since the era of the former Soviet Union, during which period the vehicle has been launched about 100 times. The Soyuz has accumulated technology and is very safe, and its launch cost is one-tenth the 80 billion yen it costs to launch a U.S. space shuttle.


Space station's future unclear

In Japan, meanwhile, there are growing calls for this country to develop manned spacecraft.

The H-2 Transfer Vehicle, Japan's first unmanned spacecraft, which successfully delivered materials to the ISS in September, is said to be a prototype for the nation's manned spacecraft.

The HTV can haul more than twice as much cargo as Russia's unmanned supply spacecraft. The United States is considering using the HTV to supply materials to the ISS after the space shuttles are retired. The experience with the Soyuz spacecraft will provide Japan with pointers on what is required to turn the HTV into a manned spacecraft.

What worries us is the unclear future of the ISS. The United States, one of the major countries promoting the ISS project, only plans to use the ISS until 2015.

Plans to develop space will not proceed smoothly unless the nations concerned take ample time beforehand to think them through. In line with the start of the full-fledged operation of the ISS, the government should quickly discuss its plan with concerned countries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 22, 2009)
(2009年12月22日01時24分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-12-22 05:02 | 英字新聞

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