A Paper Rocket

One day at Tokyo University in 1954, Prof. Itokawa told a graduate student to come and see him. He told the student to make a model rocket and carry out a wind-tunnel experiment to measure its stability. "How much can I spend on the model?" the student asked. Itokawa replied, "Nothing." His intention must have been, "Work it out by youself." The student came up with a paper rocket A card cylinder for a diploma became the rocket's body. To complete the model rocket, a nose-cone and four fins, paper again, were attached.

Of course, this paper rocket did not play any role in the wind-tunnel experiment, but to the student's surprise, it went down in history.

Glancing at the paper rocket, Itokawa murmured "Good" and took it outside to photograph it on the field. This photo was inserted with the caption "Domestic Rocket No.1 Manufactured Experimentally at University of Tokyo" in his article entitled "Flying across the Pacific in 20 minutes -- A dream for domestic rocket" in the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper on January 3, 1955.

An excellent performance through journalism is one of Itokawa's particular characteristics. The graduate student was Prof. Ryojiro Akiba, currently Director-General of ISAS.

By the way, Itokawa's article caught the attention of Susumu Okano, who was then responsible for coordinating space science at the Ministry of Education. Okano was deeply impressed by Itokawa's ambitious idea for Japanese rockets. As he described it later, Okano's encounter with Itokawa's article determined the direction of Japan's space development.

Background INDEX An Encounter with an Airplane