ISU MSS16 Japanese Team reports back from Tohoku University


The Master of Space Studies MSS16 students William Jones, Martina Russitano Lanza and Jonathan Stimmer together represent the ISU Japanese Team!

Taking place at Tohoku University in Sendai, the third most ancient imperial university of Japan, their internships concern different topics related to planetary exploration.

Martina and William, both having a background in physics and astrophysics, have taken the decision to transition to the field of engineering and work on planetary robotics.

Martina has joined the Hakuto Team of the Space Robotics Laboratory, managed and operated by Ispace, a startup founded by Takeshi Hakamada and Prof. Kazuya Yoshida. The objective of the team is to build a robot for the XPRIZE competition, which consists in sending a robot to the Moon and making it travel a minimum of 500 meters and transmit images and videos of the lunar surface back to Earth.

Martina will design a wireless communication system for swarm Intelligent robots based on LTE technology. This system will represent a testbed for further research and implementation on groups of multiple rovers for lunar exploration. Her supervisor, Nathan Britton (MSS09), is the engineering manager of the Hakuto Team.

Under the supervision of Prof. Kazuya Yoshida, director and CTO of Ispace, William has joined a team in the Space Robotics Laboratory that have recently begun the development of a legged robotic system to be used for resource utilization in the rocky environment of the polar regions of the Moon, with funding awarded by the JAXA Space Exploration Innovation Hub Centre.  He is currently working on researching insect like robotic designs that utilize small spines on the feet of the limbs to aid in climbing, and will assist in design and testing of the robot further into his internship.

To become more familiar with the goals of Ispace, at the start of their internships Martina and William are collaborating with the international business development manager, Kyle Acierno (MSS15), in the development of a technology roadmap.

Currently, both students are mostly performing a literature review and familiarizing themselves with the laboratories and teams, and have also been lucky to attend the annual Space Robotics Lab himajime seminar (an informal off-campus meeting in a traditional hot spring hotel), and have assisted in a pre-flight model field test of Hakuto on Sendai beach.

Jonathan is working in the Department of Earth Science at Tohoku University. He first met his current internship advisor, Dr. Yoshihiro Furukawa in August of 2015 during a visit to Tohoku University, one month before coming to ISU. Jonathan was extremely interested in the research being done at the Department of Earth Science, and after applying through Tohoku University, was awarded a scholarship to do his internship through the COLABS scholarship program.

Jonathan is the first MSS student from ISU to be interning in the Earth Science department of Tohoku University. He is currently researching the formation of organic molecules during the late heavy bombardment. He constructed a gas line experiment to replicate and test some of these early Earth conditions, and will begin experimenting with the constructed apparatus this week. He will begin his combined second master’s degree and doctorate degree in October of 2016 in the Department of Earth Science working with Dr. Yoshihiro Furukawa, and Dr. Takeshi Kakegawa.

The three International Space University interns were also invited by Professor Kazuya Yoshida to attend an ISU promotional seminar at the university library on the 10th June, where after a presentation of the MSS program made by Nathan Britton (MSS09), they were introduced to the audience along with other ISU alumni currently working at Tohoku University.