Japanese scientists want to launch paper airplanes from space. Scientists from Tokyo University’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics have been collaborating with origami masters to fold airplanes that can be launch from space to float back to earth. I kid you not.
This has to be the most odd story I have come across in along while. I am still in disbelief that paper airplanes could survive re-entry, but apparently a prototype passed wind tunnel durability tests in February.
The prototype was about 3 inches long and 2 inches wide. It survived Mach 7 speeds and 446 degree heat — conditions that were meant to replicate conditions during re-entry. Apparently the little paper plane suffered no major damage or burns.
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, says project leader Shinji Suzuki.
“It sounded like a simply impossible, crazy idea,” Suzuki said.
I have to agree. Paper? A paper plane wouldn't bust apart or be instantly incinerated? The freakin' Space Shuttle has blown up twice and PAPER is supposed to work?
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency thinks so. They are spending $300,000 in funding per year for the project.
The origami airplane can survive these harsh conditions because it's made from sugar cane fibers that happen to make the paper resistant to heat, wind and water. The plane is also sprayed with a special coating, of exactly what they don't say.
Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata has apparently expressed a personal interest in the project and has offered to throw several origami shuttles into the wake of the international space station.
The Tokyo University scientists hope lessons from the paper planes could lead to the development of new lightweight space probes or help to design a full size paper space shuttle.
The biggest hurdle?
They have no way to track or predict where the paper plane will land.
But Suzuki says he has a solution — a message of peace in several languages, along with a request for anyone who finds 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.”
See the story here.