Fujiwara Tatsuya to play lead in “Okaeri, Hayabusa” 3D Movie

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.

Sun Unleashes Massively Spectacular Solar Storm

A massive solar storm on the sun was observed by NASA scientists on Tuesday.

The US National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center says that an M-2, or medium-sized, solar flare was seen by a NASA space observatory. The storm could cause disruptions to a variety of communications systems and electrical power over the next day or so.

According to the scientists,  this blast of energy from the sun released solar radiation on a level possibly not witnessed since 2006.

Read the rest of the story: Sun Unleashes Spectacular Solar Storm.

ISS to get new crew – Russian, US, Japanese Astronauts Blasted-Off Today

A Soyuz spacecraft lifted off on Tuesday with a Russian, a US and a Japanese astronaut aboard headed for the International Space Station ISS.The spacecraft carrying American Mike Fossum, Russian Sergei Volkov and Satoshi Furukawa of Japan lifted off at about 2012 GMT from the launchpad at Baikonur, Kazakhstan."The flight is normal," the control centre told the international crew.The three will join Russians Alexander Samokutyaev and Andrey Borisenko and American Ronald Garan aboard the ISS where they will spend the next half year.

Read the rest of the story: Soyuz heads to ISS carrying Russian, US, Japanese astronauts.

Billions of Planets Drift Alone, Far From Parent Stars

Astronomers said Wednesday that space was littered with hundreds of billions of planets that had been ejected from the planetary systems that gave them birth and either were going their own lonely ways or were only distantly bound to stars at least 10 times as far away as the Sun is from the Earth.

There are two Jupiter-mass planets floating around for each of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, according to measurements and calculations by an international group of astronomers led by Takahiro Sumi, of Osaka University in Japan, and reported in the journal Nature.

Read the rest of the story: Billions of Planets Drift Alone, Far From Parent Stars – NYTimes.com.


Japanese Spaceship Loaded With Garbage Burns Up in Earth’s Atmosphere

An unmanned Japanese space cargo ship met its fiery demise overnight when it intentionally re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere late Tuesday one day after its departure from the International Space Station.

The robotic spacecraft, an H-2 Transfer Vehicle called Kounotori 2 (which means "White Stork" 2), was destroyed to dispose of itself and its cargo of space station trash after a successful two-month mission to the orbiting laboratory.

Along with the station trash aboard Kounotori 2, a high-tech sensor onboard the cargo ship successfully monitored the hot and fiery details of the spacecraft’s plunge to destruction into the South Pacific Ocean. It related its data via satellite to researchers for later analysis. The spacecraft also carried three paper cranes folded by the space station’s three-person crew as a symbol of hope for the victims of the massive Japanese earthquake and tsunami that struck the country on March 11.

The sensor on Kounotori 2 – a small and autonomous device called the Re-entry Breakup Recorder, or REBR for short – recorded temperature, acceleration, rotational rate and other data during the spacecraft’s high dive into Earth’s atmosphere.

Read the rest of the story: Japanese Spaceship Loaded With Garbage Burns Up in Earth’s Atmosphere.

Hayabusa Asteroid Samples Reveal Evidence of heat 4.6 billion yrs ago

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.

Read the rest of the story: Evidence of heat 4.6 billion yrs ago found in asteroid samples+.

US astronauts to ‘bottle’ space for Japan

Two American astronauts began on Monday the first of two spacewalks to install a permanent spare closet on the orbiting International Space Station and also to bottle some outer space for Japan.

The unusual project is part of a team effort with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, to open up a metal cylinder that has been signed by other astronauts, and bring it back for public display.

The so-called "Message in a Bottle" experiment, in which they will "expose a metal canister to capture the vacuum of space," is planned for the end of the six-hour spacewalk, NASA said.

In the meantime, astronauts Steve Bowen and Alvin Drew set about taking care of some more technical matters, by attaching a new extension power cable for backup purposes between the Unity node and the Tranquility module.

Read the rest of the story: US astronauts to ‘bottle’ space for Japan.

Japanese satellite Hinode uncovers two massive coronal holes in sun’s magnetic field

A Japanese satellite has captured images showing two huge holes in the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the solar corona, which are blasting solar material into space.

Known as “coronal holes”  these openings in the Sun’s magnetic field allow gas to escape into space through the star’s super-hot outer atmosphere where they become the "solar wind".

Solar winds stream from the holes hitting the earth at an average speed of 400 kilometres per second contributing to auroral displays and in more extreme cases creating solar storms.

But don’t worry, experts say the holes don’t pose a threat to the Earth.

Associate Professor Mike Wheatland from the University of Sydney said effects we see back on Earth are caused more by other solar activity.

"While these are quite beautiful pictures we are unlikely to see any effects from the holes back on Earth," Dr Wheatland said.

Read the rest of the story: Japanese satellite Hinode discovers two huge holes in sun’s magnetic field.

JAXA to team up with fishing net maker to collect space junk

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Nitto Seimo Co aim to tackle the increasingly hazardous problem of debris damaging space shuttles and satellites.

The new system involves launching a satellite attached to a thin metal net spanning several kilometers into space, before the net is detached and begins to capture space waste while orbiting earth.

During its rubbish collecting journey, the net will become charged with electricity and eventually be drawn back towards earth by magnetic fields – before both the net and its contents will burn upon entering the atmosphere.

Inspired by a basic fishing net concept, the super-strong space nets have been the subject of extensive research by Nitto Seimo for the past six years and consist of three layered metal threads, each measuring 1mm diameter and intertwined with fibres as thin as human hair.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s space agency teams up with fishing net maker to collect space debris.

Japan confirms they got the dust – Hayabusa a Success!

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.

Read the rest of the story: Japan confirms space probe brought home asteroid dust.