Rocket carrying ‘thank you’ messages from Fukushima people to be launched on 10th anniversary of quake

8 December 2019

On March 11, 2021, the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, messages of thanks and images of the reconstruction process from the people of Fukushima Prefecture and other affected areas will be sent out globally from the International Space Station (ISS). The One Earth Foundation, an Ibaraki Prefecture-based nonprofit organization assisting post-disaster recovery, will load messages and photos collected from the quake-hit areas on a rocket to be launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on a supply mission to the ISS.

The messages and photos will be put on the Konotori unmanned cargo spaceship used to send supplies to the ISS. The materials, expected to weigh 1 to 2 kilograms, are to be transported along with ISS supplies on a Konotori-carrying JAXA rocket planned to be launched next winter from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture.

After arriving at the ISS, the messages and photos will be displayed either in common ISS space shared by 15 countries participating in the space project, including Japan, the United States and Russia, or inside the Japanese Experiment Module dubbed "Kibo" (Hope) in time for the anniversary of the 2011 quake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear power plant disaster. The organizers hope to draw global attention to the progress of reconstruction by way of video footage showing an ISS astronaut reading out the messages and with the display of goods from the quake-affected areas being displayed.

Seeds of flowers and farm produce will also be included. After the event, the seeds will return to the Earth aboard a U.S. capsule. These and other goods returned from space will be exhibited and introduced at various places as symbols of reconstruction as well as a way to bridge memories of and lessons from the disaster.

Goods to be sent to space will be collected mainly from the three most afflicted prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate. The organizers plan to fix their details through workshops in which citizens will also participate.

"We would like to share the memories of the earthquake disaster on a global scale. We want many grade, junior high and high school students bearing the next generation to participate," one of the organizers said. They include Yoichi Hasegawa, One Earth representative director, Genjiro Jinno, One Earth adviser, and Makoto Tanji, leader of the Fukushima chapter of the "Kibo" Young Astronauts Club – Japan.

【Photo】 File photo taken in October 2018 shows the International Space Station, to which messages and photos from Fukushima Prefecture and other earthquake-affected areas will be sent aboard a rocket. (Courtesy of NASA via Kyodo)

(Translated by Kyodo News)