The International Space Flight Center and researchers from the University of Tokyo have teamed up with members of the Japan Origami Airplane Association to develop a paper aircraft capable of surviving the flight from its base to the surface of the earth. Yes, you heard and read the news correctly, and the prototype will be 8 centimeters (3.1 in) long and weigh about 30 grams. Researchers began testing the strength and heat resistance a few days ago in an ultra-high-speed wind tunnel at the University of Tokyo’s Okashiwa campus.
The University of Tokyo research group has successfully designed a special paper plane model that was able to withstand a Mach 7 (8,6000 kilometers or 5,300 miles per hour) high velocity stream for 10 seconds. In the tests performed, the origami glider, which is shaped like the Space Shuttle, has been specially treated to withstand intense heat. For the sake of comparison, a large spacecraft such as the Space Shuttle, can reach speeds up to Mach 20 (over 15,200 mph) when it reenters the earth’s atmosphere and friction with the air heats the outer surface to extreme temperatures. The origami aircraft due to its lighter weight is expected to descend more slowly and thus not burn up upon re-entry.
There has been no launch date set but according to Shinji Suzuki, an aerospace engineering professor at the University of Tokyo:
We hope the space station crew will write a message of peace on the plane before they launch it. We don’t know where in the world the plane will land, but it would be nice to send a message to whoever finds it.”
One can only wonder. Will origami astronauts be on board?
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