- Japanese rocket takes supplies, robot to space station
- Home makeovers help needy students
- Saving A-bomb memories
TOKYO, Japan (AFP) - Japan launched a cargo-carrying rocket Sunday loaded with supplies for the crew of the International Space Station, along with a small robot meant as a companion for one of the country's astronauts.
The H-2B rocket blasted off from the southern island of Tanegashima at 04:48 am local time (1948 GMT Saturday), images broadcast by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) showed.
"The HTV4 module has separated from the rocket as scheduled and continues its journey to the ISS," a JAXA spokesman said during the broadcast streamed over the Internet.
"Information on its progress will be given later, as and when," he added of the module which is due to dock at the station on August 9.
The unmanned rocket carried a cargo transporter filled with drinking water, food, clothing and work supplies for the six permanent ISS crew.
The annual mission, which has previously been completed by countries including the United States and Russia, will also pick up waste from the space centre.
"The H-2A and H-2B rockets have been successfully launched total 20 times in a row," said Yoichi Kujirai, chief of the aerospace division at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which carried out the project.
"We would like to sell this technology to Asia and the Middle East," he said, as quoted by Jiji Press.
A small talking robot accompanied Sunday's mission. The android is designed to act as a chatting companion for astronaut Koichi Wakata, who is set to arrive at the space station later this year.
Standing at just 34 centimetres (13.4 inches) tall and weighing about one kilogram (2.2 pounds), Kirobo is programmed to communicate in Japanese and keep records of its conversations with Wakata, who is the first Japanese astronaut to command the ISS.
The robot's creator Tomotaka Takahashi and his team posted photos taken near the launch pad on Twitter.
The black-and-white humanoid robot, wearing bright red boots, displayed its communication skills in June:
"Kirobo will remember Mr Wakata's face so it can recognise him when they reunite up in space," Takahashi had told AFP.
"He will be the first robot to visit the space station."
The robot, which has a wide range of physical motion, will also play a role in some missions, relaying messages from the control room to the astronaut.
Sending the android to space is part of a study aimed at seeing how a non-human companion can provide emotional support for people isolated over long periods.
Back on earth, twin robot Mirata will be on the lookout for any problems encountered by its electronic counterpart, which was inspired by the legendary animation character Astro Boy.
In January, Japan launched two satellites from Tanegashima to strengthen its surveillance capabilities, including keeping a close eye on North Korea after it vowed to launch another nuclear test.
One of them was a radar-equipped unit to complete a system of surveillance satellites that would allow Tokyo to monitor any place in the world at least once a day.
The other was a demonstration satellite to collect data for research and development.
TO GET ahead at school, children need somewhere clean and safe to do their homework.
The trouble is many lack even this basic amenity.
To combat the problem, a new online initiative has been set up that posts pictures of dirty or badly lit study areas in needy households.
The public can then pick which household they wish to donate their money or time to in order to help provide home furnishings such as tables or shelves.
And when the makeover is complete, a set of "before and after" photographs are posted so contributors can see how much of a difference they have made.
The first-of-its-kind project, which does not reveal the families' identities or addresses, was launched last month by the Student Advisory Centre.
"By comparing the before and after pictures, donors can see for themselves where their money or labour went," said the youth charity's director, Trevor Xie, 32.
"This also helps others to choose which house they would like to help out with."
The centre started its Home Improvement Programme last year after seeing how hard it is for families to break out of poverty without a conducive environment for youngsters to study or live in.
For example, it brought in a set of bunk beds for Sim Ai Song's two children, aged seven and 10, after finding out that the springs of their old mattress were poking through its thin threads.
"We tried to flip the old mattress over so that they could sleep on the other side, but they couldn't," said Sim, a 54-year-old cleaner. "They sleep sounder now."
The makeovers leave pupils better equipped for class and can prevent them from wandering around the neighbourhood. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
As atomic bomb survivors continue to age, their children are making efforts to preserve memories of their experiences and pass them on to future generations.
TOKYO: In April, an organisation of children of atomic bomb survivors was established in Tokyo.
Michio Yoshida, 55, a freelance writer who heads the secretariat of the organisation, Tokyo Hibaku Nisei no Kai, has interviewed survivors and is sharing the results of his work at an exhibition to mark the anniversaries of the August 1945 bombings. The exhibition, held at the observatory of the Tokyo metropolitan government office building, opened on Wednesday.
Yoshida's father, Kazuto, 81, survived the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on Aug 9, 1945, when he was 13. He was on a road about 3km from ground zero, and he was blown off it by the blast, injuring his lower back. However, he was left with no scars and did not experience any aftereffects of radiation.
For a long time, the father and son refrained from talking about the experience. "I thought it would be difficult for my son to understand my experience as he is among the generations who know nothing about the war," Kazuto said.
"I didn't feel it was necessary to ask my father about the atomic bombing, as he remained healthy," Michio said.
However, Michio changed his mind in 2004 when he watched a movie depicting a woman who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which had been casually recommended by his father. In the movie, she intentionally kept herself from having a happy life, as she suffered from guilt over surviving while so many people around her died.
The movie, Chichi to Kuraseba, was based on a play of the same title, written by Hishashi Inoue. The play is also known as The Face of Jizo in English.
Michio said he shed tears while watching how the woman continued to suffer even after the war.
Kazuto himself has suffered survivor's guilt. On the day of the atomic bombing, he was in a long line at Nagasaki Station to buy a ticket for a trip the next day. Then air-raid sirens suddenly screamed. Kazuto deliberately waited to enter an air-raid shelter later than others so he could get out quickly after the sirens stopped. When the alarm was lifted, he jumped out of the shelter, bought his ticket and left the station.
Soon after that, the atomic bomb was dropped and Nagasaki Station was destroyed. "Maybe someone else died because I bought a ticket earlier than I was meant to," Kazuto said.
In 2005, 60 years after the atomic bombing, Michio finally asked his father to talk about his experience. They went for a walk in Nagasaki together, and Kazuto took his son to an alley, which was roughly where he was during the atomic bombing.
Michio wrote down his father's tale in a booklet titled Kan-chan no Natsuyasumi (Little Kan's summer vacation). He gave copies of it to about 5,000 people.
Tokyo Hibaku Nisei no Kai has about 50 members who are children or grandchildren of atomic bomb survivors.
At the exhibition about the atomic bombings, held by the Tokyo Federation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organisations (Toyukai), Michio displays interviews with atomic bomb survivors along with pictures by a photographer who is also a child of a survivor. The interviews and photos are displayed on nine panels at the exhibition.
People with at least one parent who survived an atomic bombing are called hibaku nisei (second-generation atomic bomb survivors). They are estimated to number 300,000 to 500,000, but few details are known about them.
Many complain of poor health, and thus the Radiation Effects Research Foundation is conducting research on them to determine whether they suffer from genetic damage.
There are at least 19 organisations of children of atomic bomb survivors across the nation, including in Nagasaki and Kyoto.
Sixty-three per cent of atomic bomb survivors said they had not sufficiently conveyed their experiences to their children or have refrained from sharing them at all, according to a survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun and the Institute for Peace Science Hiroshima University.
The survey was conducted from April to July, ahead of the 68th anniversary of atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With the support of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organisations and other relevant parties, the survey covered 2,220 atomic bomb survivors whose average age was 79.6. The survey's findings were analysed by Megu Otaki, a professor at Hiroshima University's Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine.
Asked "Have you conveyed your atomic bomb experiences to your children?", 37% of respondents said they had conveyed them "sufficiently," while 55% chose the answer "a little" and 8% said they had not conveyed their experiences at all.
When those who said they had not shared their experiences sufficiently were asked why they had not done so, the answer "I have never been asked" accounted for 55%, the largest share.
This was followed by "I don't want to remember the painful experiences" by 39%, "I have few opportunities to talk about it because my children live a long way off" by 38% and "I don't think my experiences would be understood" by 37%. Multiple answers were allowed for this question.
Some respondents who chose not to tell their children about their experiences said they did not want their children to worry about their health, or they feared prejudice.
The survey also asked respondents whether they plan to share their experiences with their children in the future. Forty percent of respondents chose "yes", suggesting they wanted to pass their experiences on to future generations as much as possible.
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