Launching an Origami Paper Airplane — From Space

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

I’ve been making paper cranes, turtles, flowers and hearts for 10 years now. I’ve got boxes of the paper creations all over my house back in Massachusetts. A couple of weeks ago, I got out my origami paper and started making dozens of cranes and turtles while watching TV. By the end of the night, I had made nearly 30 of the little critters.

Now with instructional videos on YouTube, learning origami is a lot easier than having to look at paper instructions, which I find are hard to follow. A friend from Japan taught me how to do origami. She started me off with real tiny paper and taught me the importance of making sure every fold lined up. A sloppy fold could mean a broken wing on a crane or a lopsided leg on a turtle. Since learning all this, I’ve become fascinated by paper folding, which is why an Associated Press article about the Japanese wanting to launch a paper airplane from space caught my eye yesterday.

The AP reports:

Japanese scientists and origami masters hope to launch a paper airplane from space and learn from its trip back to Earth.

It’s no joke. A prototype passed a durability test in a wind tunnel last month, Japan’s space agency adopted it Wednesday for feasibility studies, and a well-known astronaut is interested in participating.

A successful flight from space by an origami plane could have far-reaching implications for the design of re-entry vehicles or space probes for upper atmospheric exploration, said project leader Shinji Suzuki, a professor at Tokyo University’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

The article continues:

“You may think it’s impossible, but we scientists are all extremely interested. I think it’s a great experiment,” said Miyazaki, the Nihon University engineer.

“No matter how it turns out, a paper craft flight from space would tell us many things,” Miyazaki said. “The fact that a paper shuttle has endured the harsh environment in the lab tests also provides valuable data for future aerospace technology.”

Seems pretty interesting. Talk about having to make precise folds …