Japan Is Joining The Space Race To Mars And Beyond


The land of the rising sun is all set to join the race to settle on Mars. Kyoto University’s Human Spaceology Centre is partnering with private sector businesses to research how to make the planet more habitable, including the development of artificial gravity fields. According to an initial report from Nikkei Asia, a potential vision for living on Mars was shown in a computer-animated presentation at Kyoto University’s Human Spaceology Centre.

It seemed like the computer animation is showing something out of a science-fiction movie, a mysterious, strangely shaped structure rising from never-ending barren red lands. However, buildings stand on green fields, grassy land and boats sailing across gaudy blue water that seems to pop right away.  

The Human Spaceology Center (HSC) is a potential vision for how humans will settle on Mars. The centre was established during a wave of projects like NASA’s Artemis program aspiring to send the U.S.’s first crewed flight to the moon since the Apollo missions, and the recent flights by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and SpaceX led by Elon Musk.

Established in October, the HSC plans to assist Japan to contribute to the technological development needed for human ventures to live far from Earth. The video shown at the centre was a concept for one of the HRC’s five primary regions of research: building habitats that support Earthlike levels of artificial gravity in partnership with a general contractor called Kajima.   

The low gravity of the Mars and Moon, one-third and one-sixth of sea level, respectively, makes it trickier for the human body to work in reduced gravity. Low gravity makes it tougher to maintain muscle and bone mass. The centre will pursue a variety of ideas for addressing this physiological problem to keep space travellers safe and sound.

In addition, the centre also focuses on the role of wood in space, radiation, and technology for the exploration of space and Earth. These various fields were chosen based on their “potential to leverage Japan’s industrial strengths in space,” said Director of the HRC Yosuke Yamashiki in the Nikkei Asia report.

Notably, the recent presentation addresses a question for Japan which has never conducted an independent space mission: How it will participate in the new space race? Universities and public-private partnerships will join hands to explore the common path. The space business is steadily attracting players from other sectors.

“I want to expand the circle of partnerships outside the current framework,” said Yamashiki.

Members of the spaceology centre include personnel from NASA and Japanese astronauts Takao Doi and Naoko Yamazaki. The centre started scale activities in June after months of finalizing the organizational structure.


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