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An artist's conception of what the Planet-B spacecraft looks like while orbiting Mars.
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Courtesy of NASA

Japanese Space Program Takes Off...
News story originally written on July 13, 1998

After a long, slow struggle, the Japanese space program is taking off! Japan's space program started with the launching of pencil-sized rockets in the 1950's. They struggled to finally build a rocket that could put probes into deep space. Just last week, Japan's struggle came to an end.

On July 4, 1998, the Planet-B probe was launched by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS). Planet-B is on its way to Mars to study the Martian atmosphere, and its interaction with the solar wind. The probe was built, launched and will be controlled solely by Japan. Planet-B will reach Mars in October making Japan the third country (along with Russia and the U.S.) to reach another planet.

This successful launch has paved the way for future Japanese missions. In the next years, they are hoping to send a mission to the Moon, to an asteroid, and to Mercury.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA