As upstart SpaceX was feted this week for the successful flight and recovery of its first Dragon spacecraft, engineers on three continents were puzzling out the reasons behind three high-profile failures in space, demonstrating anew the challenges associated with the difficult field.
In Russia, officials watched as a Proton rocket sent three navigational satellites to the bottom of the Pacific off Hawaii, delaying the nation’s efforts to provide full global coverage for its GLONASS program. Japanese engineers scratched their heads over why their Akatsuki probe ended up in orbit around the sun instead of Venus. And NASA is not quite sure what happened to an experimental solar sail satellite that blasted off into space from Alaska.
The JAXA website has a lengthy interview with astronaut Chiaki Mukai, who is manager of the agency’s Space Biomedical Research Office.Â She talks in depth about the current state of Japanese space medical research, how it will use the newly installed Kibo module aboard the International Space Station, and her nation’s aim to be the leader in the area of lunar frontier medicine. (more…)
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has a radio interview with Jeff Foust on the subject of Asia’s growing prowess in space. An excerpt:
LAM: And Jeff, even NASA believes that China can send its own manned mission to the moon within ten years. Quite how good are the Chinese?
FOUST: Well, the Chinese human space flight program is making progress, but it’s doing it at a fairly slow rate. They are only doing one man mission every two to three years, that’s a relatively slow rate. It’s not the rate that you would expect from a country that’s really racing to get to the moon before the United States and anyone else. Certainly, I think their long term ambitions do include human missions to the moon. I don’t think we will see that before 2020. In fact, some Chinese officials talk about doing human lunar missions sometime around 2025 or 2030, which is probably a little more realistic based on the current progress, as well as their current interest focusing more on human missions in earth orbits in developing a small series of small stations.
Space News has a detailed report about Japan’s new Basic Plan for Space Policy, which sharply raises the nation’s space spending and alters its basic direction:
Japan’s new fundamental space policy, released June 2, places national security front and center over the next five years, opening the door for development of a space-based missile warning system and other military satellites while providing funding for space science efforts.
It has been six months since the Basic Law on Space came into force. The law was lauded as a major improvement in Japan’s space development policy, but the decision-making process involved has become opaque.
The government should enhance accountability in setting priorities for the nation’s space technology development projects.
The stakes are getting higher as North Korea proceeds with its plan to launch a rocket during April 4-8. South Korea and its allies say this is a test of a long-range missile; North Korea claims it is a satellite launch.