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Challenge the gravity-free laboratory work, attracted by the impossible dream of space!

Yuya Hashi
Kentaro Ashiba
Hiroki Maezono

Hayabusa the asteroid explorer that had been launched into space with people's dreams returned to Japan in 2010 after about seven years of travel. The primary mission of Hayabusa that greatly excited Japan was to return a sample of material from a small near-Earth asteroid. The technology called sample return is considered a key to solve the problem of how the planets in the solar system were born. At present, Yuya Hashi, Kentaro Ashiba and Hiroki Maezono, students of Kawamoto Lab, Department of Applied Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering, School of Fundamental Science and Engineering, are addressing the challenge of innovating this sample return technology. The 'particle collection system utilizing statics' proposed by the three was highly evaluated at the 10th Student Zero-Gravity Flight Experiment Contest sponsored by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and it was decided that they would participate in zero-gravity laboratory work taking place this December. If they succeed, it is assumed that the technology can collect samples many times as much as those collected by Hayabusa, and if commercialized, it would greatly contribute to the progress of Japanese space development.

Originally, Kawamoto Lab started with laser printer research quite unrelated to space. The three guys didn't have any special commitment to space, but after they were moved by Professor Kawamoto's aspiration to apply printer technology to control toner particles with high precision, they have gradually been attracted to space. "It is difficult to link space development to actual profits, and the national budget tends to decrease. Still, when I think about the day the technology we developed will fly into space, I feel very excited," says Yuya responsible for computer simulation and looking after the two younger students as the senior member of the team. "Space is romantic," says Hiroki, responsible for experiment and equipment production, who aggressively expresses his opinions to the two senior members. "The attitude to continue to address the challenge while excited by unknown possibilities may be the ideal shape for people in the field of science." The leader of the team, Kentaro, says with sparkling eyes, "Adventurous spirits invigorate people. It would be great if we could deliver hope across Japan with our attempt." The three guys are now accelerating the pace of final adjustment toward the zero gravity experiment.

The airplane for experiment can create zero gravity conditions for just 20 seconds in one flight. In order to assure that their particle collection system properly functions in limited space and time, the three are conducting experiments assuming every possible situation. Kentaro will fly the plane and tackle the zero gravity experiment, saying with a wry smile, "Perhaps, I won't be able to afford to enjoy zero-gravity." Yuya encourages him by saying, "Do your best, as the experiment is unrehearsed." Hiroki adds, "To withstand high gravity you'll get until zero-gravity is achieved, so please build up your physical strength." "I believe that if we can show the high standards of Japanese technology through the field of space development, Japan can take back its vitality and vigor again. In order to avoid wasting our efforts, I will definitely make the experiment successful." As if to respond to the other two's commitment, the eyes of Kentaro looked ahead.

The three of them will continue to address the challenge of the unknown in space and zero gravity. When their challenge yields results, we will be able to see the unknown and get inspiration from romantic space.

The three always responded to our questions in a friendly atmosphere. They say they often spend time together outside research

Sample collector of Hayabusa. Maybe the day when the system Kentaro's group proposed is in the near future, isn't it? ©JAXA

A scene of an experiment. When they handle things with powder, they must wear masks. Kentaro is on the left and Hiroki is on the right.


Yuya Hashi (left)

Born in Tokyo. Graduated from WASEDA University Senior High School. 2nd Year, Master's Program, Graduate School of Fundamental Science and Engineering. His interest is golf. "It is fun because it doesn't go as I simulate it." (Laughing)

Hiroki Maezono (right)

Born in Fukuoka. Graduated from Chikushigaoka High School. 4th Year, School of Fundamental Science and Engineering. His interest is visits to sake cellars. "Local sake and fish in Ishikawa prefecture are the best!"

Kentaro Ashiba (center)

Born in Saitama Prefecture. Graduated from Shiba High School. 1st Year, Master's Program, Graduate School of Fundamental Science and Engineering. He actively addresses international cooperation, music festival planning, and other activities. "I like to be in places where people smile."