I took the early morning train, then bus and made my way to JAXA Tsukuba. I wasn’t really sure what to expect- the bus was rather empty but I was pretty sure people on the bus were either heading for the University or for Tsukuba.
Before I went I had a few people say to me, there is not much to see, and it mainly has research centres. A quick research on Tsukuba led me to understand that indeed there are many research centres in fact there is a whole Tsukuba Science network. There is a healthy network of about 87 organisations ranging from the Japan Autonomobile Research Institute to Science Technology Promotional Centre of Ibaraki.
My bus journey was faster than I thought and in a good hour and a half I ended right at the entrance of JAXA Tsukuba. Like a good visitor, I went straight to the information section and was going to start a tour. There were a few waiting areas, I could distinctly see a few videos of past astronauts up at the International Space Station. I could not stop smiling when I saw one of Astronaut Dr. Wakata swimming and doing breast strokes and butterfly.
Of course, for the most part, Mangaka Chuya Koyama‘s work was also positively displayed in all the rooms and visitor areas- from guides of what to do, to photoboards where one could take pictures. Space Brothers has according to many people that I have spoken to one of the most influential characters for current, present and past whom are interested in space. I didn’t quite approach the role of art like Manga, until I started talking to people at the NewSpace sector in Japan. Alot, if not most of the Founders and entrepreneurs in NewSpace in Japan are actually influenced by him. I have tried to contact him and invite him to be a Judge for the EU- Japan NewSpace2060 Illustrated Haiku competition so let’s see what the feedback is.
I jumped on a bus and one could see that school kids, adults and bus tours were already lining up for tours. We were shown an inspiring short video on the work of JAXA and then was taken for a short bus ride to go to the Control Room and learn of some aspects of the life of the astronaut.
The most fascinating aspect for me was space food and how we seem to strive for home comforts: ramen, curry, rice and azuku beans – in liquid and paste form.
Then there was the dome, presenting a more scientific approach, like any good exhibition, there were detailed explanations, videos and also plenty of photo opportunities.
I had a meeting and discussed space applications and it appears that JAXA’s 3 main area of interests include:
Climate Change Observation
Disaster Risks Management and
It appears that Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management are two major topics which clearly affect humanity and society and also which can be proven scientifically. It appears that Japan has been rather actively and rather successful in their deployment and research over the last year and obviously has long term vision for such continued projects in the next few years.
In was particularly interested in the discussions on Disaster Management and Climate Change because observing imagery from above provides us with far more perspective than from the ground.
The question of how could we best utilise such information and data imagery for the benefit of businesses be it in farming, agriculture or experiementing in unmanned systems like in aviation or cars is also part of journey of drawing the link between space and earth and to overcome the potential challenges in that communication.
Interestingly, JAXA does not actually deal with QZSS and rather it is the Cabinet that manages it. Regardless of that, the EU and Japan has similar aspirations in terms of engaging populations, businesses and entrepreneurs to utilise space applications on earth.
I was presented with a very useful handbook on areas in which space applications could be used for and they include:
- Forest mapping
- Foret Early Warning System in the Tropics
- 3D World
- High Resolution Land- Use and Land cover maps
- Ground Data set for Land – Cover maps
- SAR Interferometry
- Time -Series Interferometric SAR
- Time- Series Interferometric SAR Automatic Analysis Tool
- INAHOR Software for Estimating Rice Planted Areas
- Agrometeorological Monitoring System
- Environmental Information Provision system for Public Health
- Global Satellite Mapping of Precipitation
- 3D Precipitation Data
- ‘Shizuku’ Water Cycle Variables
- JASMES: Climate and Geographical Variable Data set
- MODIS near Real – Time Data
- P-Tree System: JAXA Himawari Monitor
- Long- Term Sea Ice Climatological Dataset and
- Joint Simulator for Satellite sensors
When you look through that list, actually the breadth of how earth observation technologies can be used is immense. I get the sense that those that work in this field, obviously know of the technologies available, the issue is of those that don’t and how they could best utilise such resources.
I think this is a question that the EU faces as well, in relation to the utilisation of Gallileo.
I was not quite anticipating spending a whole day, but I did and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Despite Tsukuba being not that far away from Tokyo, it certainly has that country feel about it. It does feel very quite and probably has its pros in terms of having the time and space to conduct research peacefully.
In following blog, I will write about the International Centre for Water Hazard (iCHARM).