This week in emerging tech, we’re focused on all things Japan.
It’s a good fit, right? For decades the country has been the epicenter of huge technological development, and this week has provided us with plenty of evidence that this is still the case. First up is an exciting new announcement from JAXA, Japan’s space agency, that the country intends to put an unmanned rover on the moon by 2018, in a bid that will put the East Asian nation on par with surrounding countries the US, China and (former) Soviet Russia.
If another moon landing doesn’t sound all that exciting, look closer. Every opportunity to visit the satellite gives humanity the opportunity to test out fascinating new technologies. Of particular interest is the development of new soft-landing technology- meaning, essentially, a refinement of the compensators and structures that keep the lander intact. This has big implications! Ensuring the integrity of the lander is a big hurdle in a potential manned mission to Mars, and the insights Japan learns from this experience might be used by NASA or another space agency to accomplish that historic first.
Japan’s been to the moon once before, sending a probe into orbit around the lunar body. That mission ended after a year and a half with a controlled crash into one of the moon’s poles, a perfect resting place for a probe nicknamed ‘Kaguya’, after the mythical moon princess of Japanese folklore (Or Sailor Moon, depending on who you ask!) It’s a big step for a relatively small country, considering its main competitors in the realm of space exploration are the likes of China, India, America, Russia and the combined efforts of the European Union.
But if space travel isn’t your thing, Japan’s still got you covered. This week marks the successful test of Japan’s incredible new maglev train, a blazingly fast piece of technology that transports passengers at up to 600+ km/h. That’s close to 400 miles per hour! Maglev is short for Magnetic levitation, and it’s exactly what it says on the tin. Powerful magnets keep train cars floating just above the tracks, and these same magnets propel them forward at incredibly fast speeds, necessitating their complex aerodynamic designs. Maglev technology is a godsend for a world in desperate need of new mass transit options, especially considering it’s purely fueled by electricity, meaning it’s a comparatively much more green way to travel.
Currently, the fastest train in operation is another example of the power of maglev, on a short, 19 mile track inside Shanghai. It travels at close to 270 mph. But the additional speed isn’t the only thing that makes this new train so exciting. It’s that it’s set to connect from Tokyo to Nagoya, a 350 kilometer trip that usually takes no less than five hours by car. The travel time on a maglev train like this one? Less than an hour.
This new development is enough to make those of us in the US long for a similar kind of option. With this maglev technology, you could embark on a transcontinental trip across the States that completes in less than SEVEN HOURS, which, considering all the waiting demanded by air flight, actually makes train travel faster than flight. City to city maglev routes could slash dependence on cars, and thus fossil fuels, while providing workers from all over the opportunity to commute with less time and stress.
So that’s what’s happening in Japan this week! Are there any other countries you’d like an emerging tech breakdown for? Let us know in the comments!