by Yasunori Matogawa

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency was born on Oct. 1, 2003. Its acronym is “JAXA” (pronounced “Jacksa”.) Please call us “JAXA”. The biggest feature of our new name is that we added the word “Exploration” that represents our activities.

Most of the employees of the three former organizations that were merged into JAXA, the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, the National Aerospace Laboratory, the National Space Development Agency of Japan, have been infatuated with the skies and space since they were young. Some have dreams to travel freely in space in a launch vehicle, aircraft or probe. Others perform demanding jobs that require discipline in order to fulfill the challenges of solving the mysteries of space and the solar system.

It was like “a bolt out of the blue” for many of us when Minister Atsuko Toyama of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology announced the merger of the three organizations. “How could the government unify these three organizations that have totally different cultures?” After a while, however, we accepted this announcement as part of the political reforms in Japan, and since then, the three organizations have worked desperately hard to make the merger a success. Our road on this journey had several bumps, but we reached our destination for the newest aerospace exploration organization of the 21st century to take its first step.

There are a variety of activities in the skies and space waiting for JAXA to tackle.

Firstly, I feel that space activities are expected to help save people from environmental and energy crises on Earth. We would like to utilize Japan’s world-class Earth observation technology more and more to scientifically understand our home planet.

Secondly, it is also important to secure people’s lives, and to further improve the quality of life by making it more convenient and enriched. We would like to make efforts to promote recognition that the results of space development have already enhanced our daily lives. In addition, we would like to nurture manufacturing technologies further in Japan to expand their usages in our daily lives.

Thirdly, I would like Japanese intelligence to distinguish itself globally, while at the same time answer the curiosity of people worldwide by continuing observations and probe activities into space and the solar system. Japanese space science has already played a leading role in the world, especially in the areas of X-ray astronomy, such as studies of black holes or supernova, studies of plasma around the earth and the sun, and radio astronomy. We are hoping to become a “brain for the world” by adding infrared astronomy and moon and planet probes to Japanese space science.

Fourthly, in order to fulfill the above challenges, we need to pursue the ultimate space transportation technology to make highly reliable launch vehicles our core. We are determined to manufacture a more reliable and cost-reduced launch vehicle of the highest global standards by maintaining and developing technologies accumulated through the development of the H-IIA and M-V launch vehicles. Another project that has recently resurfaced at JAXA is the development of a domestically made passenger aircraft. We would like to support all these activities to ensure their success.

Regarding the above fourth point, I also need to touch upon a Japanese manned space transportation project. I recognize that there are high expectations that Japan will attain its own manned space transportation technology in the future. It is also true that there are many young JAXA engineers who are willing to dedicate their lives to develop such a technology. When we established JAXA, supporters of a domestic manned space transportation establishment were unfortunately not able to convince JAXA to pursue that field of development. It was obvious that emotional reasoning, such as, “It is historically inevitable to make a human space flight,” or, “Japan can not be left behind China, who is planning a manned space flight,” was not persuasive enough to justify spending such an enormous amount of our budget. I hope that supporters of the manned space transportation system will further develop theoretical ideas, beyond idealistic reasons, under the current severe economic situation in Japan and accumulate more basic technologies during the period President Shuichiro Yamanouchi, who has extraordinary “centripetal power”, is in office. Let’s wait for them to try again even harder with their persistent efforts and persuasive reasoning.

Fifthly, I would like to foster children’s dreams, hopes, and motivation to construct a futuristic scientific society through very interesting space themes. I would like to expand collaborative operations with educational and industrial communities while aspiring to the day when space education becomes the Savior of Japan.

I am determined to carry out the above important tasks for the benefit of the people of Japan and all of mankind by devoting “all of our aerospace knowledge and ability” attained in the past. I am hoping to find the most significant meaning of this merger through the word “ALL”.

Our hope is to provide happiness to all people living in this era through our work in the skies and space, which we love very much. I profoundly expect that JAXA’s vigorous activities will help revitalize stagnant Japan.

We are now one organization. We are forming a scrum with high ambitions, and driving ahead. With your support, we will do our best to make a brighter future for our children who bear the next generation to live. Please support JAXA, our newly born organization!