I like the way Jun Matsumoto approaches his work. A researcher with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), Matsumoto is deeply involved in the design of the space sail that will pick up where Japan’s IKAROS left off. Launched in 2010, the latter was a square sail 14 meters to the side that demonstrated the feasibility of maneuvering a sail on interplanetary trajectories. JAXA has talked ever since about going to Jupiter, but the challenges are formidable, not the least of which is the question of generating enough power to operate over 5 AU from the Sun.
Image: A computer rendering shows what JAXA’s solar sail may look like as it approaches an asteroid. The probe is at the sail’s center. Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
But back for a moment to Matsumoto, who has the kind of long-term approach to his work that this site has long championed. I ran into him in an article in the Japan Times that ran last summer (thanks to James Jason Wentworth for the pointer). Matsumoto knows he is tied up in a project that will take decades, and he relishes the notion. Let me quote from the newspaper:
“I am currently the ...