Meeting Astronaut Prof. Dr. Takao Doi

First of all, thanks to Ibukun, without whom I would be sitting in the lab with no clue that Dr Takao Doi was in the campus giving a talk. Somehow, I missed the email from Maeda Sensei which had information about the event. Anyway, I needed no introduction to Dr Doi. I received the first email from Dr Doi back in 2015. That email was a confirmation email to my PNST fellowship. Without the PNST program, it would have been very difficult for me to come this far, this fast. I like to believe I’m not alone. Dr Doi was the chief of the office of outer space for quite a long time (2009-2016). All of the PNST fellows start their journey in Kyutech after receiving that email. Getting to meet him in my final year of PhD was a surprise. Dr Doi is now a Professor at Kyoto University and his students are building CubeSats. That is the reason for his visit to KyuTech this year.

Dr Doi belongs to the first generation of Japanese Astronauts. He was selected to be an astronaut in 1985 with 2 other Japanese. He was the first Japanese to do a spacewalk. He flew 2 missions in space, STS-87 & STS-123. In his first mission, STS-87 he became the first Japanese to perform a spacewalk. In his second mission, he delivered and set up the KIBO module. Did I mention he has 2 Ph.D. degree and discovered 2 supernovae?!

During the seminar, he showed us a few videos of him taken during his expeditions. Talked about the features of Space Shuttle. Communication and other technical aspects of the space shuttle. The landing speed of the Space Shuttle is about 350 KM/hour. And landing is manual. Apparently, NASA has a rule which says, all space shuttle landing is to be done manually by the space shuttle commander. Also, since it has no propeller, it is a one-shot landing. if you miss the landing, and you are not going to have another chance. I didn’t know the commander of the space shuttle is always a US citizen.

Prof. Doi narrating his experience as video from his mission plays.

The seminar was a very humbling experience. A man went to space twice and came alive, where some of his colleagues did not. When asked about the biggest challenge of his life, he said it was training and waiting to be selected for a mission. He waited for over 10- years for each mission he went to. That is a lot of time training and waiting. That’s an amazing level of patience. This really brings out the question, or rather ‘the debate’. The people who have paid a lot of money to companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic will also go to space. But can we really call them astronauts??? Sure they will have the training and will experience liftoff and landing in a SpaceCraft. What about the risk and the sacrifices made by people like Dr Takao Doi, who dedicated his entire youth for training and made numerous other sacrifices in his personal life which we may never know? It is nearly impossible to match their level of dedication.

With Astronaut Prof. Dr. Takao Doi, who has flown to space twice, discovered 2 supernovae.

Maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough to take a selfie with Bangladeshi astronaut. The only question is, will I live long enough to do that day??? 

Sir Abed will forever live in our memories

Back in 2015 July, I was preparing my papers for Higher Studies in Kyushu Institute of Technology. At the same time I was a student of BRAC University. I was due to graduate in August. While I was making the preparation, I surprise news came in. If we could manage some research grant, we could start working on our own satellite immediately. A scope was there which later came to be known as BIRDS Project. We were very excited. We tried to approach the key personalities within the university. The time was short and it was considerable amount. We would never make it within the due time.

What if we could go and talk to Abed sir? Would that help? At that time, it was a crazy idea. But we somehow managed a 10 minutes appointment with Abed sir. We prepared the briefing material. At that time, nobody knew about Nano-satellites. Everyone we’d talk to, thought, we were trying to build a 3 ton satellite. So that’s how we prepared our briefing. I don’t remember how big it was. About 10 pages. We included all the questions you might have. What is a Nano-Satellite? Why they are useful? What sets them apart? Also, their limitations. On the day of the meeting, we were prepared to give the presentation. Arif sir would make the presentation and rest of us would be present in the room. Mind you, we were still BRACU students.

When Abed sir walked in, after the brief introduction of everyone, Arif sir prepared to started the presentation. To our surprise, he said something in the line of,

I’ve seen your file. Here’s what I don’t understand….

(* Paraphrased. I couldn’t find the minutes from the meeting.)

Imagine our surprise, until that day, we had to repeat same points over and over again to get somebody on the same page as us. This is quite normal. If you are managing a large office, I really doubt that you’ve sufficient time to do your homework. We understand. That’s why we were there, to show them what we’ve learned.

Abed sir is just not the founder and Chairperson of BRAC Bangladesh, by then, BRAC model has been adopted in multiple other countries. Even countries like USA. (Google BRAC USA to know more). A guy who is managing one of the biggest NGO shouldn’t have had time for our briefing! That’s why we’re just satisfied with 10 minutes appointment.

We’re surprised but we’re happy. We’d now emphasize on the important bits. The questions came one after another. I wish I had taken more notes on that meeting….but from what I can recall, I was astounded that these questions were not general questions. Not questions like, “How big is it?” or “Why is it so small?”. He asked us questions on the topics those we debate over in an appropriate conferences and workshop. If my memory is correct he asked about ‘Orbital Debris’. Orbital debris is still a fresh field to do your research on. This guy, who runs one of the largest NGO in the world, works for the betterment of poor people, has no exposure to satellites, is asking us the big questions. Questions we didn’t know the proper answer back then (Fortunately, Arif sir was there)

All of us after the meeting.
From the Right: Dr. Md. Khalilur Rhaman, Dr. Md. Haider Ali, Dr. Arifur Rahman Khan, Sir Fazley Hasan Abed, Maisun Ibn Monowar, Raihana Shams Islam Antara, Abdulla Hil Kafi.

The whole meeting was just like a dream. It was over quickly. But we took total 20 minutes. He have us extra 10 minutes. We were all aware of the time. We knew the 10 minutes mark has been passed. We’re expecting to be cut off and said something in the line of, “Ok. I see. I’ll let you know. Bye.”. Instead, we received a reply like,

This is great project and a good opportunity. BRAC University should pursue projects like this.

(AGAIN, I’m paraphrasing.)

As he left the room, we were all standing in shock.

“Did our funding just got approved???!!!!!!!!!!”

Is that it? Is that all we had to do? No coming to accounts office everyday?? No talking / meeting with Mr. X?? Are we done???

It appears we’re done. Within days we received the good news that the research fund has been approved and on our way.

Fast forward in 2019, we built the first satellite for Bangladesh and people still grieve why didn’t we do it any sooner.

It was people like Sir Fazle Hasan Abed and Prof. Ziauddin Ahmad who we’re silently watching over us that we could come so far. Both of them are no longer with us. But we will keep walking. We will keep pushing forward. When I grow old, I want to be at-least 5% of the man Sir Abed was.

Thank you sir. You’ll forever remain in our hearts.

This Month in Space – October 2019

New Starship

SpaceX officially revealed updates for it’s Starship. A spacecraft designed to deliver human or payloads to Mars and beyond. Elon said the Starship could launch 100 humans into space simultaneously. First announced in IAC 2016, Starship is slowly making its way into existence.

The technical specifications are off the charts. While talking about the specification, we need to think in 2 stages!

First, there is the starship itself. 9 meters in diameter. 50 meters in height. Six raptor engines burning 1200 ton of Methane and Oxygen. You can put 100+ ton of payload inside its 9m by 18 m fairing. 

Second, the booster. The first stage of the rocket which will lift the Starship to LEO. Super Heavy booster has 37 raptor engine. 9 meter diameter. 68 meter height. Housing 3300 ton propellant. Producing 72 MN thrust. 

The Starship we saw in September, is only Mk1. 20 km hover test will be done with Mk3. 

When I saw Elon making announcement for BFR, or starship as we know it today, I was amused. I wasn’t exactly sure if it would ever come into reality. I thought Falcon 9 was the peak of innovation. A big rocket that goes up and comes back on its own, only to fly back up again. Why would you need a bigger launcher. I still don’t know if we truly need a bigger rocket. With the money being poured into Starship, there could very well be a need. 

https://www.spacex.com/starship

European Satellite Dodges Starlink 44

SpaceX again. This time, not so happy news. When Starlink satellites were launched we raised a concern. What happens to radio inference? Will it fill the space with spurious noise? What about astronomy? How do we get a deep space image when Starlink satellites are bouncing back to earth. What happens to space debris problem? Of all the good things SpaceX have done, personally I wasn’t 100% happy with Starlink. 

NORAD predicted Starlink 44 satellite was headed directly towards on of the ESA satellites. The predicted date of collision was on Sept. 2. Possibility was 1 in 1,000 — 10 times higher than ESA’s threshold. When ESA operators contacted SpaceX, there was no response. I guess this is because Starlink 44 is eventually destined for deorbiting maneuver tests. So to SpaceX, Starlink 44 might not be so valuable. Eventually, ESA operator performed a maneuver to avoid collision. 

I don’t know what went behind the curtains. However, I’m pretty annoyed with this news. SpaceX should thake debris problem more seriously. 

ISRO’s Moon Landing

India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission didn’t go 100% as planned. I’d be surprised if it did. Space is hard. Challenging. We’ll never have enough resources to complete a mission with 100% success. 

With what I could read up online, ISRO’s moonlander couldn’t slow down before touchdown. So it was a crash landing. Since then, the lander went radio silent. According to ISRO, The Lunar lander was spotted by the Lunar orbiter days later. The Lunar orbiter is functioning well.

Regardless of the statistics or the numbers, I this as an absolute win.

https://www.space.com/nasa-photographs-india-moon-landing-site.html

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/india-isro-lander-lost-final-approach-moon-located-190908145405011.html

BIRDS 3 CDR

BIRDS 3 CDR has concluded today. With this, major design of the BIRDS 3 satellite is now fixed. We now have a pretty solid idea of the upcoming satellite.

BIRDS 3 CDR Group Photo

Dr. Werner Balogh Visits KyuTech

Posted on January 30, 2016January 30, 2016 by Maisun Monowar

https://photos.google.com/search/werner/photo/AF1QipOOQe1BoSgcvrHK5etXtPWxqcNsSxLAl_JlmSGn

Dr. Balogh with PNST Students

Dr. Werner Balogh, Office for Outer Space Affairs, United Nations [UNOOSA] paid a visit to Kyushu Institute of Technology [KyuTech] last week. During his visit we were fortunate enough to have some of his time, talking about our experience in KyuTech and also Space science in general.