Intent and purpose

Yosuke Alexandre Yamashiki, Director, SIC Human Spaceology Center*

[Turning Towards a Society in Space]

It is 2021, human beings have their sights set on their next goal: Mars. The U.S., Russia, China, and various other countries have been planning manned space missions to get people to space. Japan has also started recruiting astronauts for their participation in the announced NASA Artemis program. In Japan, many venture corporations have begun a wide variety of initiatives related to space, but they are still not close to the U.S., where SpaceX is leading the next generation of space development. In October 2020, the Social Innovation Center (SIC) was established with the support of participating companies. In this collective, we have invited Astronaut Takao Doi, who created Japan’s space missions, as a Program-Specific Professor, and have established a network of experts from JAXA, NASA, JAEA, Kajima Corporation, and Accenture. In addition, Astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, who helped with Astronaut Takao Doi’s ground mission, has been supporting our activities as a specially appointed associate professor. By assembling the knowledge of all of these experts, we will work together to build a future society for humanity in space. In order to reach our goal, research will be conducted in the following five areas: “The Use of Wood in Space,” “Space Habitation,” “Radiation Effects in Space,” “Space Education,” and “Technology for Space and Earth Exploration.” In these endeavours, we have the support of Sumitomo Forestry, Kajima Corporation Kansai Branch, Accenture, Sankyo Seiki, Seibu Shoko, and DMG Mori Seiki. Our common goal with these objectives is to create a new research environment that will allow us to better understand the needs of our customers and to create a society in space.  

The outlined research objectives in these five categories are new to space-related research institutes. One of these, the concept of using wood in space, was born out of a long time joint research project by Professor Takao Doi, Sumitomo Forestry, Professor Tadashi Nakamura and Associate Professor Koji Murata of the Graduate School of Agricultural Science. In addition, key technologies for terraforming, such as building a wooden satellite for space and conducting experiments on growing trees under reduced pressure, are being developed. 

Researching habitation in space, our experts come at the problems from all angles, such as the proposed artificial gravity facility “Lunar Grass / Mars Grass” submitted by SIC Associate Professor Takuya Ohno and the Kansai Branch of Kajima Corporation. At the same time, we will continue our research into the Moon Village concept by Prof. Yoshifumi Inata, and on exoplanet exploration and habitability assessment by myself and Prof. Vladimir Airapetian from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. On top of all of this, we will be working on establishing a loop system in space for the construction of a space society under the advice of Prof. SIC Yukou Inatomi of JAXA.

As for the effects of radiation in space, we will combine PHITS and aircraft exposure assessment using WASAVIES by Prof. Tatsuhiko Sato, SIC, JAEA, and solar flare and CME occurrence prediction research by Dr. Daikichi Seki at Accenture.

In addition, thinking about how to live in space, especially on Mars, there needs to be a realistic plan for a society and community. In particular, it is necessary to study the mental and physical effects of all parties involved, as well as how they will survive long-term isolation from the Earth until a society can be established. For this, the key technologies we are looking at are “artificial gravity” and “protection from space radiation.” We also need to examine the methods for securing oxygen and food on the planet, and how to plant trees. In the above three research fields, we examine the solution to technical problems related to the migration to Mars.

In the area of space education, we will continue with the Space Camp (SCB2) using Biosphere 2, in cooperation with the Space Studies Research Unit, and conduct manned space training exercises in various parts of Japan, especially at Hida Observatory and Yakushima Island.

In researching technology for space and earth exploration, we will continue Earth exploration using satellite data to the hydrosphere, and developing biota identification using AI technology. Research in this area involves many hours of field activity, but we believe it is an important technology, which includes a close examination of how this knowledge can contribute to future planetary exploration.

Our main aim is to formulate plans for “dreams” to be realized in the near and distant future, including technologies that have yet to be put to practice, and to make them a reality. Looking toward the realization of a space society in the near future, we will start small, but without giving up, we hope to make steady progress.

(June 22nd, 2021)

*Deputy Director, Social Innovation Center; Director, Human Space Studies

This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)