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Space Science

Japan's 20-Year Plan for Space 263

Posted by timothy
from the build-up dept.
rwven writes "Japan has just released information on their new space plan which will take them through the year 2025. Included in their plan are robots and nanotechnology for moon surveys as well as an eventual hydrogen powered mach-5 capable plane, a mach-2 capable passenger airliner and a manned mission to the moon. They will consider missions to mars and other planets after 2025. Space.com is also carrying this story."
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Japan's 20-Year Plan for Space

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  • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:41PM (#12157928) Homepage
    The more competition in the arena of space, the more designs get tested out, and the quicker we find what reduces the cost of spaceflight and what makes it more expensive. The only downside is that we'll have to deal with the oversized Hello Kitty decals flying overhead :P
    • Lowered cost? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:55PM (#12158096)
      You make the assumption that space flight is going to be cost driven with discounts and frequent flyer plans.

      Cost reductions will only happen if there is significant competition from cost consious buyers. The space market will have to change a lot before that happens.

      • Re:Lowered cost? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by erlenic (95003)
        As seen in 1950:

        You make the assumption that airline flight is going to be cost driven with discounts and frequent flyer plans.

        Cost reductions will only happen if there is significant competition from cost consious buyers. The airline market will have to change a lot before that happens.
      • Re:Lowered cost? (Score:3, Informative)

        by _ph1ux_ (216706)
        "Cost reductions will only happen if there is significant competition from cost consious buyers"

        Yeah? Tell that to the oil industry....
    • by IronChefMorimoto (691038) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @05:01PM (#12158885)

      only downside is that we'll have to deal with the oversized Hello Kitty decals flying overhead

      Screw Hello Kitty! I eagerly await the 500m wide advertisement starships flying overhead featuring hot Japanese babes a la Blade Runner! Imagine, though, all the auto accidents below as the world's Asian fetish types come out of the woodwork and gaze upward instead of forwards.

      IronChefMorimoto

      • Imagine, though, all the auto accidents below as the world's Asian fetish types come out of the woodwork and gaze upward instead of forwards.

        I don't think the four of them that actually go outside will make that much of a difference. Especially since two of them don't even drive.
  • Cooperation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) <shadow.wrought@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:41PM (#12157929) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how much cooperation is going to be forced on the space faring nations over the next couple of years as they vie for more expensive technology with ever shrinking resources.
    • Re:Cooperation (Score:3, Informative)

      by CSMastermind (847625)
      I'm willing to say it will lead to less cooperation....well maybe some at the start of things. I'm reminded of the age of exploration in the Americas. I think it will lead to some cooperation in the inital exploration phase, but once someone gets a coloney down or a mining facility up, it'll be no holds barred imperialism again.
      • That is certainly possible, although I could see it ending up with a colony vs. Earth mentality also. The most interesting part to watch, assuming that we are still around when it happens, will be to see if any of the lessons learned during the olonization of the New World were learned. My bet is: No. Although the likelyhood of Native Intelligence influencing the colonies ought to be decidedly less;-)
        • Orginally posted by Shadow Wrought:
          "Although the likelyhood of Native Intelligence influencing the colonies ought to be decidedly less;-) "

          Lol. In that regard you are indeed correct. But the complaint that we'll be too far away to correctly govern the coloney should still be a valid argument ;-).
        • I can just picture drunken martian colonists dressing up as malfunctioning mars probes or fossilized martian bacteria and tossing the shipment of replacement nuclear fuel overboard in the "Meridiani Uranium Party"
    • This plan by the Japanese is aggressive. They not only intend to enter the aerospace business, but they intend to dominate it and do it quickly.

      It looks to me that, perhaps, the major technologies are in place for a real space race. Personally, I'll place my bets on China.
  • Nanotech? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 0kComputer (872064) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:42PM (#12157939)
    Over the next decade, JAXA's plan calls for scientists to develop robots and nanotechnology for surveys of the moon

    I thought Nanotech was still in its infancy. What are they going to do, dump a bunch of buckyballs in a crater?
    • Re:Nanotech? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rewinn (647614)

      Nanotech may indeed be in its infancy, but isn't that a good reason to plan ahead?

      IIRC, Apollo was planned in the punched-card era. Compared to the beloved IBM 1138, my cellphone is practially nanotech.

    • Over the next decade, JAXA's plan calls for scientists to use buzzwords like "nanotechnology" and "hydrogen-powered."

      Yeah, that sounds more like it.
    • Re:Nanotech? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nacturation (646836) <nacturation.gmail@com> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @04:18PM (#12158357) Journal
      "Over the next decade... develop nanotechnology..."

      I thought Nanotech was still in its infancy.


      Right, which is why they're developing it. In ten years, a human infant is no longer an infant. Of course, it remains to be seen whether nanotech can sustain a similar level of growth.
      • In ten years, a human infant is no longer an infant. Of course, it remains to be seen whether nanotech can sustain a similar level of growth.


        Meh. I dunno what's so "nano" about this "tech" if it grows to a level similar to that of a ten year old human infant... :-)
      • Right, which is why they're developing it. In ten years, a human infant is no longer an infant. Of course, it remains to be seen whether nanotech can sustain a similar level of growth.

        Right, and like a human infant, you can't be certain if they're going to grow up to be a farmer or a jazz pianist.

        Out of all the possible applications of nanotech, it's not possible to predict which ones will succeed and which will fail.

        Will we be using nanotech in 20 years? I have no doubt. What we will be using it for? N
  • by ThreeE (786934) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:44PM (#12157958)
    All this Japanese talk of the moon and beyond is great -- and welcome, but I think Japan should concentrate on simply putting a human above 62.5 miles safely first...without cancelling the program.
    • Thats kinda like saying "India should deal with making sure atleast half there children are literate before turning themselves into the outsourcing capital of the eastern hemisphere."

      Noble on paper, but thats not really how things are done. I grew up in a country [visittnt.com] where about 30% of the households had a landlline phone up until about 1998 (which is when I left)I went back in 2002 and about 80% of the had atleast one cellphone and even less people had landlines.

      It isn't always neccessary to follow the line

  • by krf (873528) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:45PM (#12157977) Homepage
    They have obviously run out of places to put hidden giant-mecha hangers, and are looking for room to build more.

    Robotic moon surveyors, indeed!
  • 20 years!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Reignking (832642) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:46PM (#12157984) Journal
    This is one thing that I love about Japanese culture -- the ability to plan long-term. Their companies will develop 5-year plans while here in the US, we're preoccupied with every 3 months...
  • Google Maps (Score:4, Funny)

    by ajs (35943) <ajs@@@ajs...com> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:47PM (#12157996) Homepage Journal
    Hey, if Japan just gets me decent sat. imagery for New Hampshire that Google Maps can use, I'd be happy ;-)
  • by Virtual Karma (862416) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:48PM (#12158013) Homepage
    Now they can put the robot we saw in action here [slashdot.org] in space and have them fight the ultimate war of the machines. Imagine you having nuke armed robots on mars attacking flying robots over jupiter... pretty cool
  • by rewinn (647614) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:49PM (#12158024) Homepage

    Why should Asian space efforts go for "manned" space flights?

    I love Star Trek as much as anybody but the human body is a very difficult payload to sustain. If Japan is going to do serious planetary exploration (...and I wish them well at this...) then the first step should be to define goals and discard things with a low payoff

    Apart from publicity stunts and tourism (... which should be self-funding ...), what goals are served by putting humans on the moon or in cislunar space?

    Robots can explore far more cheaply than humans, so for any particular amount of money, we can do more exploration with robots than with humans.

    The idea that humans can make on-site decisions better than robots can is simply an artifact of time-scale. That is, while there is some necessary time-lag between a robot noticing a funny rock on Mars or Titan, reporting back to Mission Control on Earth, and then acting on directions ... so what? The robot is patient, doesn't sleep, and if properly powered doesn't have to worry about food supplies.

    Like I said, I love Star Trek but until we get really, really serious advances in technology, lunar and cislunar exploration is more sensibly done with robots.

    But I'd be interested in contrary views.

    • Very simply, a large fraction of the people paying the bills (the US taxpayers) feel that the human perspective is a key part of space travel. So much so, that that is what they are primarily paying for.

      Other viewpoints include the utility of human decision making vs. silicon decision making. Today, and for the foreseeable future, it is superior.
      • by aepervius (535155) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @04:05PM (#12158203)
        But for exploring the moon, less than 2 light second away, frankly a remote controlled robot is far more than enough, and all decision making are on earth, without having to take tons of water, food, meatbags, air, and protection against radiation or whatnot. And that was I think the point of the poster. He was not in any respect speaking of implementing any decision making into a robot.
      • by rewinn (647614) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @05:38PM (#12159268) Homepage

        >human decision making vs. silicon decision making

        I certainly agree that 'artificial intelligence' has, so far, been an oxymoron

        However, any really big project has to match its means to its objectives. The choice today is never human vs. silicon, but the appropriate mix of Human AND Silicon (SF fans cf Asimov's 'Robots of Dawn').

        Let's get down to cases, in exploring, says, Mars or Pluto:

        *Task: Map That World!
        Orbitting Robots can do this already, much better than humans. While human photos of Earth from space may have a slight advantages as to artistic and sentimental value, if you need a photo for business purposes, isn't it usually from a robot satellite?

        *Task: Land and Pick Up That Rock:
        We can drop a couple hundred Rock-grabbing robots for the cost of 1 human. OTOH, if *I* get to be the person, I'd favor the human option. Otherwise, do I want to pay for 1 human to pick up a rock or for 100 robots to pick up 100 rocks?

        *Task: Deal With Unexpected Event Involving Destruction of Explorer
        Humans are better than robots at dealing with unexpected events that threaten to destroy them. So what? Apollo 13-class disasters have happened to several unmanned missions and no-one makes a movie out of them because no-one cares that much when a robot dies.

        *Task: Deal With Unexpected Event Not Involving Destruction of Explorer
        Now this is the canonical events for which SF fans cheer the human brain. "Look, a Face On Mars! Shall We Go Inside?"

        In novels, the answer is "Yes" and we have adventures resulting in crowds of cheering women when we get home!!!.

        In reality, here's what happens:

        Astronaut: Houston, we've found a Lost Temple on Titan with a Beckoning Door.

        Several Hours Go By

        Houston: Ok. Send in a robot.

        This is not because astronauts are not heroic. They are. It's because successful explorers have a fine sense of when to take a risk and when to send in the expendibles.

    • by carpe_noctem (457178) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @04:01PM (#12158162) Homepage Journal
      Well, robots are far more likely to turn against their masters and hatch a plot to take over the world. We wouldn't want to turn a fresh, virgin planet over to the robots so soon, would we?!
    • Two words (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Auckerman (223266) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @04:03PM (#12158181)
      National prestige. That's why. Not all money spent needs to be justified on a quantifiable physical or economic asset. Somethings just can't be graphed on paper. In the end, the feeling people get seeing their citizens on another planet can arguable have more of an impact on that society than spending the same resources on robot missions.

      People are allowed to be people, you know. Naturally curious and sometimes doing dangerous and expensive things that have no obvious economic interest.
      • Re:Two words (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hsmith (818216)
        I love how this gets modded up on socialist /.

        there are far bigger problems we need to resolve on earth, such as oil dependency. if these countries dumped this money into a "alternative fuel race" instead of a space race, we would have more expendable income because we would be free from the harness of oil. lets worry about this planet first before we start wasting tax money again.
        • Re:Two words (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Auckerman (223266) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @04:35PM (#12158554)
          "there are far bigger problems we need to resolve on earth, such as oil dependency. if these countries dumped this money into a "alternative fuel race" instead of a space race, we would have more expendable income because we would be free from the harness of oil. lets worry about this planet first before we start wasting tax money again."

          No problem is two dimensional. In the real world, society is intertwined, you change one part of society, you can and usually will change it all. It's in part reflected in the law of unintended consequences. It is unreasonable to look at the worlds problems from a purely utilitarian point of view. It doesn't reflect the fact that yes we are humans and as such there are no simple answers.

          This kind of reasoning is the same kind of reasoning that leads to people cutting funding for theoretical scientific work because there is no practical use for it, as you clearly are suggesting. How to use knowledge typically is not obvious when it is discovered.

          I suggest you examine the possibility that people can tackle multiple problems at the same time. It is also worth considering that attacking problems from a two dimension point of view will end up causing new problems and is not the most efficient way of running a human society.
      • National prestige.

        In other news, Japanese scientists received an order from their Emperor to develop a space battleship with a huge cannon that emits a deadly beam and destroys everything in its path.

        The purpose of the ship would be to explore the solar system, and maybe the Milky Way...thoughts are to go as far as the Magellan cloud.

        I heard that they are going to utilise wave motion technology based on tachyon accelerators, both for the engine and the main weapon.

        The ship will have 9 18" main gu

      • It's not just prestige. It's reasonable to assume that the aerospace industry--and human activity in general--will expand into orbit, then to the Moon, then Mars, then beyond, in layers, like the layers of an expanding onion.

        There will be lonely robots with little support at the outer fringes, but each layer farther in you come, the more infrastructure, traffic, and activity you'll have. The innermost layer is full commercial and personal life: residence, travel, business, and play.

        All of these layers are
      • In the end, the feeling people get seeing their citizens on another planet can arguable have more of an impact on that society than spending the same resources on robot missions.

        Yes, a feeling I know well. A feeling that gets lost somehow while watching the Foxumentary about how it was all a hoax, and realizing that most people are believing the hoax that is the Foxumentary, instead of the reality that was the moon landing. :(
    • by MagPulse (316) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @04:08PM (#12158241)
      "We choose to go to the moon... Not because it is easy, but because it is hard."
      -JFK, 1962

      In other words, it's inspiring. If not for the moon landing, a generation of scientists and engineers would've become something else, and our civilization would be the worse for it.

      The reason we're seeing independent human spaceflight and governments starting to talk about ambitious space programs again is that those people have grown up and are wondering what happened to their dreams. If we get humans out to the moon and Mars in the next few decades, we will fulfill some of those dreams and give new ones to our children.
      • This is 20th-century thinking. You see, the human history is not an infinite timeline, where nations fight for prestige, where people need to inspire children with flashy projects.

        Today we see the future much clearer and it dictates us what is rational to do. It is rational to concentrate on developing the enabling technologies first - nanotech and AI. It doesn't make sense to inspire people with space flight, that time has come and gone. It also makes sense to fight ageing and achieve physical immortality
      • Something I've never quite got about that JFK speech. Here's what he actually said:

        "We choose to go to the moon! We choose to go to the moon in this decade and
        do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard"

        The question that's always bugged me: what were the other things? It always sounds to me like he forgot what he was going to say, almost like the speech comes across as this:

        "We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things.. you know... they're on the tip
    • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @04:09PM (#12158255) Journal
      Your ideal of a quest for knowledge is noble, but for many there is also that quest for experience. Just knowing what is on Mars is much different than actually being on Mars.

      Millions of tourists travel yearly to well documented locations. Would their $5,000 vacation to tour Italy be better spent just reading some books and looking at the pictures. I mean then you don't have to worry about lost luggage, weather, being robbed, getting lost etc...

      I know most geeks don't really understand but there is more to life than knowledge.
    • I think the common argument against your idea is that humans have the ability to think "outside the box". We can react to events in a near-infinite number of ways. For example, Apollo 13 would've failed miserably (assuming you can call it a "success") if it were robots on board instead of humans. AI has a long way to go before it can match our decision-making skills.

      Having said all that, I tend to agree with you. Humans are a burden on these missions -- we may be flexible of mind, but we are not flexible
      • Like I said, I love Star Trek but until we get really, really serious advances in technology, lunar and cislunar exploration is more sensibly done with robots.

      Tell me, how are we then going to get those new technologies for human space flight?

    • Because we CAN. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by solios (53048) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @04:23PM (#12158413) Homepage
      If we're ever going to get off this frigging rock, we need man-rated vehicles, we need efficient launch solutions, we need fast turnaround and we need sustainable habitats.

      NASA has one man rated vehicle that is grossly expensive to launch, has a turnaround that is at best seasonal, and is currently used to service a barely sustainable habitat that is essentially a badly under-crewed garbage barge orbiting too low to avoid reentry without constant readjustment.

      NASA, assuming they have ANY interest in the future of manned spaceflight, just isn't getting the job done. Competition is good. It took getting our ass handed to us by the Russians with Sputnik, etc. for us to even start giving a shit about space- if China or Japan puts a man on the moon, you can bet we'll be busting ass to beat them to mars.

      500 years ago you probably would have been insisting on a land route to china, since it's Safe And Proven and Doesn't Risk Equipment Or Lives, etc, etc.
    • by Fyz (581804)
      Well, first off, I think that it's really important to think of goals in other terms than science. The kind of science done in space projects is, with few exceptions, basic research. And basic research is not something investors, be they government or corporate, are big fans of.

      In other words, I think space exploration should be driven by a long term plan for giving a solid payback in science or even profit. This will not be done by having mechanical toys drive around in ditches or staying in low earth o
    • Technology (Score:3, Insightful)

      by chihowa (366380)
      Aside from the oft pointed out prestige factor (which is a very good reason), you also have this added benefit to humanity...

      ...but until we get really, really serious advances in technology...

      Trying to solve a problem is one of the fastest ways to come up with solutions to that problem. We are currently enjoying many of the technological advances acheived by (or for) the manned space program. Waiting for technology to advance enough to do something doesn't make as much sense as actively advancing it.

    • why not?

      making the attempt is at least as useful as success. you learn a lot. useful science and technology can still be derived from overall project failure.

      there's a lot of approaches to the problem of manned spaceflight that haven't been tried yet. america got there in the 1960s with brute force.

      maybe asian nations can do better?

      besides, nobody has even attempted a manned moon mission in over 30 years. it's about time someone gave another stab at it.
    • Robots can explore far more cheaply than humans, so for any particular amount of money, we can do more exploration with robots than with humans.

      You mean giant mecha robots piloted by angst ridden teenagers with multiple double crosses. The only way to do space exploration in Japan.

      On a more serious note. Asia was eclipsed by the West for the last century or so, I'm sure they want to restore their pride by showing their own people what they can achieve.


    • Robots can't plant a flag and claim territory. Until actual humans stand there and dare potential claim jumpers with the proverbial 'over my dead body' any legal claims are tenuous at best.

      It's really impossible to say how human perceptions may transcend the data collected by machines. Astronauts say that the experience of spaceflight changed them in fundamental ways impossible to describe. It may be that for mankind to truly conquer space the poet will be just as essential as the explorer, the engineer,
  • hondaship (Score:4, Funny)

    by fox9397 (873641) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:57PM (#12158110)
    I wonder if the space ship will use 4 rocket boosters mounted sideways, in an innovative space saving design with front rocket Drive.
    • Re:hondaship (Score:3, Informative)

      by LWATCDR (28044)
      Actually Goddard;s first rocket was front drive :)
    • I wonder if the space ship will use 4 rocket boosters mounted sideways, in an innovative space saving design with front rocket Drive.

      I wonder if it will have a huge Type R sticker on it. R standing for Lunar.

      ...

      (think about it)

      .
      . (sorry)

  • by The I Shing (700142) * on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @04:03PM (#12158183) Journal
    If Mars had plaid-skirted schoolgirls living on it they'd have been there twenty years ago. Am I right? Am I right? Is this thing on? Thank you, I'll be here all week.
    • Japanese schoolgirls wear the little sailor outfits. It's the American Catholic school girls in the plaid skirts. Um . . . . not that I really pay attention to that sort of thing or anything.
      Hey! How about that NCAA final!?!
    • If Mars had plaid-skirted schoolgirls living on it they'd have been there twenty years ago.

      I guess we know why they're going to the moon [projectanime.com].
  • Meanwhile... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wiktor Kochanowski (5740) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @04:06PM (#12158214)
    ...oil is almost at $57 per barrel and going up.

    It really strikes me that nobody evaluates the feasibility of things like Mach 2 air travel in the face of the end of cheap oil era on the horizon. Even as anybody can observe the total failure that today's airlines already are -- due to that very factor.

    • Re:Meanwhile... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ncb000gt (865657)
      Yes but if you develop the design then power is just secondary and can be interchangeable at the point that it has to be. Soon in the future there will be extremely efficient methods of alternative fuels and those can then be used. While they will cost a good deal starting out, it should become much more cost effective as it will be a necessity.

      You are correct that today the cost of oil is high and will be so, but it is not the end all to travel by vehicles. This is something that MUST be recognized. An al
  • We can already do those...

    Where's the friggin' VERITECHS!?!?!
  • There's no mention of Mechs. Or the Yamato. Not even a single reference to a wave motion gun! Ah well, maybe those are in the next 20 year phase.

    Seriously though, good luck Japan! I only wish we were as forward thinking as you guys seem to be. As it is, we can't even find a few million to keep getting data from Voyager [bbc.co.uk].

    Learn from us, do yourselves a favor and budget past those 20. You'll be glad you did, someday.

  • Japan is broke as well is the United States. How does japan plan to accomplish this feat? More debt i assume?
  • Japan and aerospace. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @04:18PM (#12158361) Homepage Journal
    Aerospace really seems to be the one place that Japan is behined the US, the EU, Russia, and even China.
    Take a look at there "plans".
    A Mach 2 airliner? The Concorde already did that. A Mach 5 unmanned aircraft? The shuttle and X-15 already beat those speeds and they where manned.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Cheated! I want my giant robots!
  • space race! .. space race! .. space race!
  • by payndz (589033) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @06:52PM (#12159974)
    Will man still be alive? Will woman survive?

    Seriously, though, it's weird because 2025AD used to seem like THE FUTURE!!! Whereas it's actually now only 20 years away, which isn't really all that long. Computer tech aside, was 1985 all that different from today?

    [Activates DeLorean, goes back to 1985]
    Me: Hi! I'm you, from THE FUTURE!!! 2005, to be exact!
    1985 Me: Wow, the 21st Century! So, did we get our flying cars?
    Me: Um, no.
    1985 Me: Jetpacks? Bionic implants? AIs? Robot servants? Semiballistic airliners allowing us to reach anywhere in the world in two hours? Space holidays? No more poverty or hunger? A cure for cancer? World peace? No more self-serving shitwicks in high political office?
    Me: Sorry, no, none of that. But on the plus side, our videogames kick ass, there'll be a new Star Trek TV series and there's this thing called 'the internet'.
    1985 Me: What, like William Gibson's cyberspace?
    Me: Again, no, not really.
    1985 Me: Wow. The future sounds really shitty. At least tell me I get rich in the next 20 years.
    Me: ...
    1985 Me: Laid on a regular basis?
    Me: ...
    1985 Me: Okay, find me a bottle of whiskey and some pills. I'm going to create a time paradox.

  • Good luck to 'em, but this doesn't seem to be funded. Will the Diet budget committes believethere won't be substantial budget increases in the outyears?

    Oh, the Space.com story is the same AP story ref'd earlier in the intro. Thanks for paying attention to details there at /..

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