KASHIWA, Japan -- Japanese scientists and origami masters hope to launch a paper airplane from space and learn from its trip back to Earth.
It'll burn up in the atmosphere because it's a friggin paper airplane! Smoke another one people.
It's no joke. A prototype passed a durability test in a wind tunnel this month, Japan's space agency adopted it Wednesday for feasibility studies, and a well-known astronaut is interested in participating.Quote has been trimmed
A successful flight from space by an origami plane could have far-reaching implications for the design of re-entry vehicles or space probes for upper atmospheric exploration, said project leader Shinji Suzuki, a professor at Tokyo University's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Suzuki said he was skeptical a decade ago when he first discussed with experts the idea of sending into space a craft made in the tradition of Japan's ancient art of paper folding.
"It sounded like a simply impossible, crazy idea," Suzuki said. "I gave it some more thought, and came to think it may not be ridiculous after all, and could very well survive if it comes down extremely slowly."
In a test outside Tokyo in early February, a prototype about 2.8 inches long and 2 inches wide survived Mach 7 speeds and broiling temperatures up to 446 degrees Fahrenheit in a hypersonic wind tunnel -- conditions meant to approximate what the plane would face entering Earth's atmosphere.
Having survived the 12-second test with no major damage or burns, the tiny plane theoretically could get back to Earth because re-entry from outer...
Still not gonna work.
The pair theorize that with the coating, rounded edges, a rounded nose cone and almost no weight, their craft will face very little of the heat-generating friction that causes most damage to vehicles re-entering Earth's atmosphere.
Astronaut Koichi Wakata, who has expressed personal interest in the project, would throw several origami shuttles into the wake of the international space station, which travels at Mach 20 some 250 miles above Earth -- if the JAXA feasibility studies pan out, Suzuki said.
Findings from the paper shuttles' flight could be used in developing new lightweight space probes that would study the upper atmosphere, Miyazaki said. The results also could help in designing a full-scale shuttle that re-enters the atmosphere slowly to reduce fiction and heat, said Suzuki.
Suzuki and Toda plan to write a message of peace on the planes in several languages, along with a request for anyone spotting them to notify the team.
"Just imagine, children around the world would be anxiously waiting for the return of our origami shuttle, perhaps looking up into the sky from time to time," Suzuki said. "That would be great fun."
Ok granted this seems interesting to a limited degree, but I could think of better approaches then this. Seriously, why origami paper planes of all things?
Then again, I suppose that's how airplanes started out.... wood and paper for the most part. Interesting read, but sounds more like a waste of time and money.