A JAPANESE astronaut is flying a flag for Canberra, on his way to orbit the planet aboard the International Space Station.
Dr Koichi Wakata, who blasted off on November 8 as a member of NASA’s Expedition 38 to the space station, is carrying with him a small flag to acknowledge the contributions to astronomy and space research made by the Mount Stromlo Observatory over 100 years, and the Tidbinbilla Deep Space Tracking Station over its 40-year history.
Dr Wakata will bring back the 20cm x 15cm white flag, which features the Centenary’s “Canberra 100” logo alongside that of the ANU, when he returns to Earth in May, 2014, and it will be put on display at the ANU.
The opportunity to take a symbol of Canberra into orbit came about through a collaboration between the ANU Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), according to Canberra Centenary general manager Adam Stankevicius.
On the space station, Dr Wakata will conduct experiments suggested by students from the Asia-Pacific region, such as one comparing adzuki beans grown on the ISS with those grown on earth.
The International Space Station does about 15 laps of the Earth every day at over 27,000 km/h, more than 300km above the surface, and has been continuously occupied for 13 years.
It is used as a laboratory for experiments that have covered biology, physics, astronomy and meteorology as well as the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment for missions to the moon and Mars.