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Space Technology for Our Lives

Q. Were you always interested in space and satellites when you were a child?

I was an astronomy fan, and was fond of observing stars with a telescope. My interest in space grew especially when I learned about the Apollo 11 mission, which landed on the Moon in 1969. Japanese media started covering the Apollo mission a few years before the landing, and a lot of space information became available. Watching the news, I aspired to have a job in the field. The event had a great impact on me. I later joined NASDA, the National Space Development Agency of Japan (now a part of JAXA), and my first job was in the department for testing satellite spacecraft. After that, I was involved in the development of the Advanced Earth Observing Satellite Midori (ADEOS) and Midori II (ADEOS II), and I'm now the WINDS project manager. Development of satellite spacecraft is indeed interesting and challenging.
The Soviet Union's Sputnik was the first satellite I saw. When I was a child, we could see it flying in the sky over Tokyo. Newspapers would publish a detailed schedule, with the dates and times the satellite would cross from east to west, and everyone used to look up to the sky at that time. I remember watching with my neighbors, being fascinated by the fact that such a thing could fly in space. Now being involved in satellite development, the most moving moment for me is the launch of a satellite. It makes me speechless to watch a satellite we spent years building being launched, and, after the rocket releases it, taking off into pitch-dark space.
Receiving the first signal from a satellite is another compelling moment. There is great struggle involved in satellite development, and I feel a lot of pressure as a project manager. But despite it all, developing and launching a satellite with colleagues gives me great satisfaction.

Q. How do you feel at this current stage of development before launch?

Development of WINDS is in its final phase. We have been conducting various tests at the Tsukuba Space Center since the beginning of this year, and things are progressing as scheduled. Once all tests are done, the satellite will be transferred to the Tanegashima Space Center, and we'll do final checks for its launch, scheduled in early 2008. I'm just wishing that all the tests will be successful and the satellite will take off into space safely.

Q. Could you tell us about your dream?

I hope that satellite technology will be well incorporated into our lives. I'd like to see a society where everyone benefits from space technology without being aware of it. For instance, no one thinks about the use of broadcasting satellites or meteorological satellites when they're watching TV. Most people do not make a connection between what they're watching on TV and the fact that it comes to them via satellite. Similarly, I hope the day soon comes when all satellite technologies are naturally embedded in our everyday life, and people don't take space to be a special world. I'd like space to be part of our lives, and hopefully, WINDS will be a catalyst for this.

Yasuo Nakamura, Project Manager, Wideband InterNetworking engineering test and Demonstration Satellite (WINDS)
Mr. Nakamura joined NASDA, the National Space Development Agency of Japan (now JAXA), in 1974, and was involved in environmental testing and development of thermal control systems for spacecraft. After working on the Advanced Earth Observing Satellite Midori (ADEOS), working as a director of NASDA's Paris Office, and further work on the Advanced Earth Observing Satellite Midori II (ADEOS II), he was appointed to his current position in 2003.

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