On June 13 of last year, Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa (“peregrine falcon”) successfully completed its seven-year mission by returning to Earth samples from asteroid 25143 Itokawa. In a recent interview with monthly Japanese literary magazine Chūōkōron (translated by Japan Echo), mission managers Matogawa Yasunori and Kawaguchi Jun’ichirō reflect on the challenges of conducting joint projects with NASA, on the philosophy of failure and success, and on the importance to education of non-conformity and outsized dreams.
KAWAGUCHI Ordinary evaluators look for shortcomings. And those subject to that sort of evaluation try to be everything to everybody; they quickly lose their distinctiveness.
When you make senbei [rice crackers] in a mold, there’s some overflow that remains as thin crispy bits on the edge, called mimi [crust]. It’s generally considered something superfluous that can be cut off. But if you try to keep the mixture entirely within the mold, you end up making the senbei smaller and smaller. So the mimi bits are actually essential.
The overflow is crucial, but people have lost sight of this fact. I think it’s partly due to the educational system. Instead of trying to extend the distinctive elements, the focus is all on how to correct the shortcomings.
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