“Explore to Realize” with Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

Japan’s version of NASA is the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (独立行政法人宇宙航空研究開発機構, Dokuritsu-gyōsei-hōjin Uchū Kōkū Kenkyū Kaihatsu Kikō), or JAXA.  JAXA, is primarily responsible for research, technology development, and the launching of satellites into orbit, asteroid and moon explorations, and other advanced missions Its corporate slogan is “Explore to Realize.”


JAXA was formed on the 1st of October 2003 with the merger of three Japanese organizations: the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NAL), and the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA).

JAXA Experiment Module. | Polimerek

Each agency had their own specific responsibility: ISAS concentrated on space and planetary research, NAL was responsible for  aviation research, and NASDA focused on  developing satellites and rockets and on building the Japanese Experiment Module.

Some of Japan’s notable successes in their space program are the field of X-ray astronomy and the Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), used in radio astronomy where a signal from an astronomical radio source is collected from multiple radio telescopes. Japan launched its first satellite, Ōsumi, in 1970 and further developed liquid-fueled launches in rocket technology.

Akiyama Toyohiro was the first Japanese in space. He is a journalist and television reporter and also the first fare-paying civilian passenger to participate in a spaceflight: in 1989, he flew on a commercial flight to the Soviet Mir space station. Other notable Japanese astronauts are Takao Doi who flew on NASA missions, and JAXA astronauts Satoshi Furukawa, Akihiko Hoshide, and Norishige Kanai. Chiaki Mukai, a doctor, was the first Japanese woman JAXA astronaut in space and the first Japanese citizen to be in two spaceflights.

Chiaki Mukai. | NASA

jaxa1Japan’s lunar and interplanetary missions include the observation of the 1985 Halley comet with satellites Sakigake and Suisei, the Mars Orbiter Nozomi in 1998, and the Hayabusa, an unmanned spacecraft, in 2003.

Jaxa’s M-V No.7 launch. | masamic

The Hayabusa’s main mission was to collect samples from a small asteroid named 25143. The Hayabusa returned to Earth in June of 2010 with tiny grains of asteroidal material. The Hayabusa 2, a Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) is set to launch on November 30 this year. The Hayabusa 2 is tasked to dig a small crater on the asteroid 1999JU3. The mission will provide valuable data on the surface and interior of an asteroid. JAXA was awarded the Space Foundation’s (a nonprofit organization that supports the global space industry) John L. Swigert, Jr. Award for Space Exploration in 2008.