The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is Japan’s national space agency; it conducts space, planetary, and aviation research, and leads development of rockets and satellites. It is a participant in the International Space Station: the Japanese Experiment Module (Kibō) was added to the station during Space Shuttle assembly flights in 2008. The space probe Akatsuki was launched May 20, 2010, and achieved orbit around Venus on December 9, 2015. Japan’s plans in space exploration include: developing the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter to be launched in 2018; and building a moon base by 2030.
On September 14, 2007, it launched lunar explorer SELENE (Selenological and Engineering Explorer) on a H-IIA (Model H2A2022) carrier rocket from Tanegashima Space Center. SELENE is also known as Kaguya, after the lunar princess of The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Kaguya is the largest lunar mission since the Apollo program. Its purpose is to gather data on the moon’s origin and evolution. It entered a lunar orbit on October 4, flying at an altitude of about 100 km (62 mi). The probe’s mission was ended when it was deliberately crashed by JAXA into the Moon on June 11, 2009.
Main article: List of Japanese Nobel laureates
Japan has received the most science Nobel Prizes in Asia and ranked 8th in the world. Hideki Yukawa, educated at Kyoto University, was awarded the prize in physics in 1949. Shin’ichirō Tomonaga followed in 1965. Solid-state physicist Leo Esaki, educated at the University of Tokyo, received the prize in 1973. Kenichi Fukui of Kyoto University shared the 1981 prize in chemistry, and Susumu Tonegawa, also educated at Kyoto University, became Japan’s first laureate in physiology or medicine in 1987. Japanese chemists took prizes in 2000 and 2001: first Hideki Shirakawa (Tokyo Institute of Technology) and then Ryōji Noyori (Kyoto University). In 2002, Masatoshi Koshiba (University of Tokyo) and Koichi Tanaka (Tohoku University) won in physics and chemistry, respectively. Makoto Kobayashi, Toshihide Masukawa and Yoichiro Nambu, who was an American citizen when awarded, shared the physics prize and Osamu Shimomura also won the chemistry prize in 2008. Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura, who is an American citizen when awarded, shared the physics prize in 2014 and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi in 2016.