Hayabusa bullet trains began running Saturday at a new top speed of 320 kph on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, equalling France’s TGV as the world’s fastest train in operation.
Meanwhile, a new red E6 series bullet train debuted on the Akita Shinkansen Line the same day and part of local train lines in Miyagi Prefecture resumed operation for the first time in two years, providing a sliver of good news for the disaster-hit Tohoku region.
The E5 series Hayabusa, which links Tokyo with Aomori Prefecture on the northern tip of Honshu, now reaches speeds of 320 kph between Utsunomiya and Morioka — the capitals of Tochigi and Iwate prefectures.
The lead has finally been revealed for “Okaeri, Hayabusa,” the 3D movie that Shochiku announced earlier this year about the space probe Hayabusa. Fujiwara Tatsuya (29) will headline the cast as an inexperienced JAXA engineer named Ohashi Kento, supported by a cast that includes Anne (25) and Miura Tomokazu (59).
Miura will play Kento’s father Isao, the project leader for an earlier failed space probe mission known as Nozomi. Anne plays Nomura Naoko, a budding scientist who is strongly persuaded by Isao’s speeches into studying space. The story will revolve around these three characters and their connections over the 7-year Hayabusa mission.
“Okaeri, Hayabusa” is scheduled for theatrical release in March 2012.
Some details have been released regarding Toei’s movie about the Hayabusa space probe, tentatively titled “Shouwakusei Tansaki Hayabusa: Harukanaru Kikan.” The big-budget film will star actor Watanabe Ken (51) as a character modeled after Kawaguchi Junichiro, the project manager behind the Hayabusa probe. In addition, Watanabe will be serving as project manager for the movie itself, working with director Takimoto Tomoyuki (“Hannin ni Tsugu,” “Ikigami”).
Toei is pouring in 1.5 billion yen for the movie’s production, which includes building 3 life-sized models of the Hayabusa probe (about 6 meters long) under the guidance of JAXA. The studio Toei Animation will be doing CG work for the film.
The script for “Shouwakusei Tansaki Hayabusa” is originally based off a work by journalist Yamane Kazuma, but it also includes information from exclusive interviews with more than 50 people associated with the project. The story covers the challenges faced by the mission’s team over Hayabusa’s 7-year flight to the asteroid 25143 Itokawa and back, becoming the first mission to bring back an asteroid sample to Earth.
The probe, which successfully returned to Earth last year, is the subject of at least two other feature films, including one by 20th Century Fox starring actress Takeuchi Yuko.
The rest of the cast for “Shouwakusei Tansaki Hayabusa” will be announced in the near future. In order to learn the technical knowledge necessary for the film, the cast is conducting technical rehearsals until May 20, when the film begins shooting. In mid-July, they plan to shoot part of the movie overseas, and filming will wrap up at the end of that month.
Toei is aiming to complete post-production in December of this year, making the film ready for release in 2012.
Particles brought back by Japan’s Hayabusa unmanned space probe, which returned to Earth from the asteroid Itokawa last June, show signs that the material constituting the asteroid may have been formed in high temperatures at the time the solar system was created 4.6 billion years ago, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said in a preliminary analysis report Thursday.
The agency also said organic substances, which could help explain the origins of life, have not been found in the samples.
JAXA has been examining the particles in cooperation with scientists across the country, with the hope of shedding light on the origin of the solar system, as Itokawa is said to have maintained its form from the time the solar system was created.
Japan is set to launch at the weekend its next-generation high-speed train, featuring sleek green and silver cars with pink stripes and named for the peregrine falcon.
The "Hayabusa," the first upgrade of Japan’s bullet train fleet in 14 years, has sparked such excitement among railway buffs that one ticket for Saturday, when it debuts, sold for thousands of dollars on the internet, media said.
The train clocks in at a top speed of 300 km (180 miles) an hour, making it the fastest train in Japan — and just short of China’s Harmony Express, a cross-continental rapid transit line that hits a high of 350 km an hour.
"It is indeed a bullet train that represents the high level of our company and Japan’s technology," said Tomoyuki Endo, manager of the Shinkansen Group at East Japan Railway Company.
"Not only with its speed but also with its eco-friendly, speedy, reliable and comfortable mechanical performance as well as its fine passenger service."
Distributor Toei announced its 2011 movie lineup on Wednesday. One of the highlights of the event was the announcement of a film with the working title "Shouwakusei Tansaki Hayabusa: Harukanaru Kikan," based on the space probe Hayabusa that returned to Earth last year.
Launched on May 9, 2003, Hayabusa was an unmanned probe sent to collect samples from the asteroid Itokawa. After traveling 6 billion kilometers over 7 years, Hayabusa successfully returned to Earth on June 13, 2010.
The movie will focus on the probe’s project team and their families. The director and the cast will be finalized soon, with filming anticipated to start this May. The release date has been set for 2012.
Toei’s 2011 lineup also includes previously announced films such as the animated "Tezuka Osamu no Buddha -Akai Sabaku yo! Utsukushiku-" and the Korea-Japan action film "My Way" starring Jang Dong-gun and Joe Odagiri.
A Japanese deep-space probe became the first ever to collect asteroid dust, during a seven-year odyssey that ended with its return to Earth over the Australian desert this year, Japan said Tuesday.
The news crowns with success the journey of the unmanned Hayabusa probe, which five years ago made a pinpoint landing on an asteroid 300 million kilometres (186 million miles) from Earth — about twice as far as the sun.
Since the probe’s return in June, scientists had carried out a lengthy analysis of the samples it brought back to confirm they were genuinely extraterrestrial after technical problems during the mission.
"It’s a world first and a remarkable accomplishment that it brought home material from a celestial body other than the moon," Japan’s science and technology minister, Yoshiaki Takagi, told a news conference in Tokyo.
The team was "unbelievably lucky," said Junichiro Kawaguchi, the manager of the Hayabusa project, telling reporters: "I don’t know how to describe what has been beyond our dreams, but I’m overwhelmed by emotion."
Hayabusa, which means falcon, blasted off in 2003 for its lonely odyssey, which at times appeared doomed. At one stage the probe lost contact with Earth for seven weeks, a glitch that added three years to its space voyage.
A team of scientists flew to the Australian Outback on Monday to recover a Japanese space capsule they hope contains the first-ever asteroid samples that could provide clues into the creation of the solar system.
The Hayabusa explorer returned to Earth overnight after a seven-year, 4-billion mile (6-billion kilometer) journey, burning apart on re-entry in a spectacular fireball just after jettisoning the capsule. It was the first time a spacecraft successfully landed on an asteroid and returned to Earth.
NASA scientist Scott Sandford said it was a relief to watch the re-entry and see the capsule had successfully detached and parachuted to Earth.
“During a mission critical event like a re-entry, there’s a whole series of things you’ve got to get right to make it work, and they all seemed to have come off without a hitch,” said Sandford, an astrophysicist and one of the team members who will research the samples. “It’s a great testament to the design and operation of the spacecraft.”
Japanese engineers have devised a plan to combine parts from two partially-failed ion engines to resume the Hayabusa asteroid probe’s journey back to Earth.
In a press release Thursday, officials said they will use the neutralizer of Thruster A and the ion source of Thruster B to provide enough power to guide the 950-pound spacecraft home next June.
Hayabusa launched in 2003 with four ion engines. Thruster A was shut down due to instability shortly after launch, while Thruster B was turned off after high voltage in its neutralization system.
Thruster C was manually switched off after signs it might be damaged by high electrical currents, and Thruster D failed two weeks ago due to a voltage spike.
The Nov. 4 glitch left Hayabusa without a propulsion system and put its scheduled return to Earth in serious doubt. But the new plan gives Japanese officials new hope.
“While the operation still needs monitored carefully, the project team has concluded the spacecraft can maintain the current return cruise schedule back to the Earth around June of 2010, if the new engines configuration continues to work as planned,” the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said in a statement.
Hayabusa’s four experimental microwave discharge ion engines consume xenon gas and expel the ionized propellant at high speeds to produce thrust. Ion engines are more efficient than conventional chemical thrusters because they use less fuel and can operate continuously for thousands of hours.
The craft’s thrusters have accumulated almost 40,000 hours of burn time since the probe launched.
Plans call for the spacecraft to continue thrusting until March, when it will shut down the ion system and coast toward Earth for a parachuted landing in Australia.