First, the Probe congratulates Japan on this weekend's successful H-2A rocket launchfrom Tanegashima Space Center, the first lift-off since the nation's embarassinglaunch failure in November 2003 (-- just one month after neighboring Chinashot itself into space history by launching its first manned orbital mission).Japan's rocket carried a weather and navigation satellite (the Multi-functionalTransport Satellite-1 Replacement, or MTSAT-1R), and the nation is quitehappy to be back in the launch biz. Tsukasa Mito, executive director of theJapan Aerospace Exploration Agency offered the soundbite, "I hope it willbe a new starting point of the history of H-2A." Indeed.
Of course, last week the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) joinedthe Space and Major Disasters Charter(or officially, the Charter On CooperationTo Achieve The Coordinated Use Of Space Facilities In The Event Of NaturalOr Technological Disasters) to work with NOAA, ESA and other space agenciesin international disaster relief. (See related Probe post.)
And. . . oh -- this week Japan again made space news when it announced thatit plans to develop its own manned spacecraft, like the shuttle, and puta manned station on the moon by 2025. Well. All that remains to be seen, of course.
But it's sure starting to look like things may get a bit crowded up there...