June 12, 2009

Japan, India Join Forces For Space Exploration

A Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency researcher said Friday that Japan and India are planning to launch their first joint space research project this year, which will include an experiment to grow plants in zero gravity.

The countries are going to launch an Indian-made satellite in October, which will carry Japanese laboratory equipment that is set to orbit for a week at a height of 370 miles.

Noriaki Ishoika, a professor for Japan's space agency JAXA, said the satellite will look for growth of a type of algae.  He called the experiment "a basic study on photosynthetic activity in space."

"We will retrieve the satellite after a week or so and conduct genetic examinations on how the zero-gravity environment affects photosynthesis."

Even though the project might pave the way for "space farming," he cautioned that the basic experiment was an early step.  The type of algae being used is called spirulina, and it is not related to the food supplement of the same name.

"Spirulina is edible, but it doesn't taste so good," he said.

Japan is already involved with the International Space Station, and has sent astronauts to it to conduct a variety of space experiments in its Kibo laboratory.

Japan is hoping that its joint project with the Indian Space Research Organization will allow the country to diversify its channels for space research.


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