Category Archives: Japan

More Rabbits on the Moon?

The big guy is Moonraker, the one following is Tetris. Image hosted on Space.com.

There are several teams competing for Google’s Lunar XPRIZE.  One team is going their own way, because instead of using just one robot, the team, Hakuto (which is Japanese for rabbit), is using two.  The following information comes from Space.com’s recent post about Hakuto and the robot duo they are prototyping.

The bigger robot, looking like a white breadbox with white paddle wheels, is named Moonraker, while the smaller one, looking like a metal mini-vacuum cleaner, is called Tetris (right, I don’t know how they paired the names either).  Tetris is designed to be towed by Moonraker across the moon’s surface.  A fancier Tetris, one made of carbon fiber, seems to be coming up, though.

The “tow-line” can be extended, so Tetris can wander off a bit and explore craters and caves, using the line, still attached to Moonraker, to keep it from falling into a hole.  This particular robotic duo doesn’t just explore the moon’s surface, but can also get a glimpse of what is under it.  To get an idea of how the whole system works, there’s a video, also on Space.com’s site, but Youtube also just so happens to have it, so the video is shown below.

Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles also feature prominently in the demonstration as part of a human interface to the rovers.  Not sure if the VR gogglemaker foresaw this particular application for their goggles.  I am also not too sure how practical VR goggles would be for controlling rovers on other planets, considering time delays and possible bandwidth constraints.

However, Tetris, Moonraker, and the virtual reality goggles conspire to make an interesting lunar explorer concept with flexibility, although it’s also a little more complicated.   Hopefully all of Hakuto’s work will be rewarded in some way.

Astronaut Pay

Astronaut Pay

Sure, some of us say we’d work in space for free.  We’re pretty nerdy that way.  I’m pretty sure, then, for these astronauts, that getting paid to do something they love, is icing on the cake.  I’m assuming astronauts love their job.  There’s a lot of work and commitment involved to become an astronaut, though, so they should get some sort of pay.

How much does an astronaut make?  This Universe Today post lists the different space agencies, and the range of pay each country agency pays its astronauts.  The pay scales don’t look bad, but as with most jobs, it looks like being a more senior astronaut with more experience has its perks.   The ranges offered by each agency looks pretty comparable, although the Canadians, known globally for being terrible tippers, are the most generous.

The post gives some tips to those interested in earning that Astronaut’s Pay.  You have the opportunity earn the pay and the name if you have the “Right Stuff,” that is.  It’s not too long of a post, so give it a read if you’re curious about the amount of money governments pay the people who are taking risks in space.

What’s the Worst that Could Happen?

Space Trawler

Enough about the Missileer cheaters!  It’s just sad to see the organizations I once worked for go downhill so badly.  On to the story…

There’s always someone out there who has a great-sounding idea for how to take care of the “debris-in-space” problem.  Japan is no exception.  This Geek.com article talks about Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) idea for collecting junk.

JAXA want to deploy a satellite with a magnetic net to scoop up the debris.  My guess is this Japanese “space trawler” will be primarily used for Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) operations.  I suppose there’s no reason they couldn’t try to clean up all orbits, though.  The only things that may slow that idea is the area covered, and power.

Like the other ideas for cleaning up space, if JAXA succeed, they may have a money-maker.  There should be a fee for services rendered.  They plan to have it ready for launch by 2019.

One thing to remember for those peaceniks out there:  the space trawler could be weaponized.  It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to have the space trawler target active satellites.