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Profound Feelings When We See Images of Earth
Q. What role should JAXA play in publicizing Japan's space development?

Earth (Courtesy of NASA)
Earth (Courtesy of NASA)

JAXA has launched satellites that contribute to global environmental solutions and the prevention of natural disasters. This is of vital interest to the general public and should be more widely publicized.
In that respect, I believe the Space Poem Chain are effective. The more people enjoy them, the more interested they will become in space, and the more space poems will be written. And that in turn will help to make people more interested in Japan's space activities. How would poets and children express their feelings if they could go to space? That's what I'm very interested in. I hope the day will come soon when ordinary people can go to space.
In the photo book Earth the Mother Planet, which I mentioned earlier, there's a poem that basically says that on the first day, space travellers point at their own countries from the window. On the second day, they point at their own continents, and on the third day, they truly feel that they are citizens of Earth, regardless of their countries of origin.
I want to hear from Japanese astronauts about the feelings they had when they went to space. I believe that the experience of seeing the beautiful Earth floating in space will certainly make people realize how precious and miraculous our planet is, and make them more environmentally conscious.

Q. Ms. Sakurai, you experienced the Mid-Niigata Earthquake of 2004. Could you tell us about your experience then? And what kind of satellite service do you think should be available when natural disasters like that occur?

I experienced the earthquake when I went back to my hometown to attend a memorial service. I was going to return to Tokyo the next day, but the suspension of the train service made it impossible. Of course I tried to phone NHK, but to no avail. Neither did people at NHK succeed in contacting me. The concentration of phone calls during a natural disaster makes it hard to get connected. There was a TV set at the entrance of the gym used as an evacuation centre, but I strongly felt that the news programs were intended for the general public in other parts of the country. The television information about the disaster was not so useful to those directly affected by it.
People affected by a serious natural disaster always need information, on everything from the arrival time of food supplies to garbage disposal. NHK Niigata did broadcast this kind of important information for the victims on TV and radio, but some of them were too exhausted to walk to the TV set or to sit through all the programs to get necessary information. This is why I hope there is a satellite system that can get essential information to disaster areas about things like infrastructure and daily necessities. We need to establish a system to provide detailed information to every victim or household. In particular, we need to come up with a system by which older people can easily get accurate information.
We Need to Convey the Greatness of Outer Space
Q. What kind of role do you expect JAXA to play in the protection of the Earth?

Yoko Sakurai
Protection of the Earth means protection of all living things, including human beings. I look forward to space research helping humanity on Earth. Space research gives us important data that can be put into practical daily use. We must also have a way to convey this information in easy-to-understand ways to ordinary people, especially older people.
Young people are computer-savvy, and can easily get essential information online, but we must remember that not everyone in our society has or uses a computer. Given the rapid aging of Japanese society, the communication of essential information to older people will become ever more important.

Q. What are your expectations for Japanese space development?

I hope that our use of outer space will be nothing like our exploitation of the Earth (for example, deforestation). Earth has been evolving for 4.6 billion years. Human beings should have treated the Earth according to the laws of nature, but instead, we have exploited our mother planet, violating nature as we please. Because of this, serious problems arise, such as environmental pollution. Development of Earth and space may be necessary for us to survive as a species, but we must do so in a way that does not violate natural laws and cause problems.
People used to believe that the Earth was flat, but now we know that it is round, as the photos taken by astronauts show. Our knowledge about how to treat the environment properly is increasing in the same way that we learned about the shape of the Earth. If we could all go to space, we would have a stronger commitment to the protection of this planet, but at the moment it is impossible for ordinary people to do so. This is why astronauts play an important role in this field. They should publicly express their feelings about environmental protection, which must have become stronger through their direct experience of seeing the Earth from outer space. Words from astronauts and images taken in outer space can be eloquent and have great credibility and impact to make us more environment-conscious.
What we need now is someone who can explain space-related issues to ordinary people simply and concisely. JAXA is a state-of-the-art organization made up of experts in the field of outer space. As an organization, JAXA should be more active in promotional activities and let the general public know that space research is useful, interesting and important. It's important to put out not just information, but touching stories told in a heartfelt style. For example, certified weather forecasters, such as Mr. Masamitsu Morita and Mr. Yoshizumi Ishihara, have made people more interested in the art of weather forecasting. JAXA should use words from well-known scientists to educate the general public in an interesting way. If necessary, assign this important promotional role to a skilled scientific communication professional from outside JAXA who can convey the relevance of the state-of-the art research conducted by JAXA. I feel that there might be still a lot of useful information at JAXA that is not open to the general public. In order to improve its publicity activities, JAXA should have someone who competently plays the role of spokesman.

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