Researchers from the University of Tokyo have hooked up with the Japan Origami Airplane Association for what is quite possibly the most splendidly pointless space experiment of all time - the development of a paper plane capable of surviving re-entry into Earth's atmosphere after launch from the International Space Station.
The researchers have apparently already begun testing an eight-centimetre prototype in an ultra-high-speed wind tunnel at the University of Tokyo, subjecting it to wind speeds of Mach 7. It's shaped like the space shuttle, and treated to "withstand intense heat", Asahi says.
However, since it'll flutter gently to the ground, the team claims it won't be subjected to the same kind of heating as a space shuttle returning to terra firma, and shouldn't burn up in the atmosphere.
Shinji Suzuki, an aerospace engineering professor at the University of Tokyo, said: “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.”
No launch date for the peace-mongering origami re-entry vehicle has yet been set. ®