Message from the President March.2024

The Safety to Function as Intended

On January 20, 2024, the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) developed by JAXA succeeded in landing on the moon, making Japan the fifth country to do so. Moreover, this was the world’s first pinpoint moon landing, demonstrating Japan’s advanced technology to the world. I believe that SLIM has opened a new door to space exploration that enables us to choose where to land.

This project was achieved because of the many Japanese companies and engineers who were mobilized for the unified collaboration. For example, the attitude control systems, laser range finders, moving mechanisms and cameras of SLIM's robotic probes are only a few of countless number of parts that utilize Japan’s technological capabilities. It can be said that repeated simulation increased the probability of success.

Among these efforts, a particularly important factor is the fail-safe design concept based on the assumption that machines, systems and other things created by humans will inevitably encounter accidents and errors. During SLIM’s moon landing, one of its main engines failed. However, it was possible to promptly transition to contingency mode, which made this crowning achievement possible.

There is no guarantee of 100% safety in mobility development. Therefore, it is critical to work to bring the success rate closer to 100%. Aircraft are a potentially extremely dangerous form of mobility because they cannot instantly stop flying in the event of an accident. However, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the United States shared survey results data indicating that aircraft are safer than automobiles.

This is because of their design concept. Aircraft are normally designed to have a quadruple fail-safe structure. In such structure, even if one component is destroyed, for example, other components are unaffected, and more than two small components can be combined to be used in place of one large component. This ensures that the vehicle can function as intended, preventing accidents and enabling crews to recover from accidents that do occur.

The space industry is expected to grow substantially. Going forward, the private sector will likely be a major player in the industry, as can be seen by an uncrewed spacecraft landing successfully on the moon on February 23, 2024, a first for the private sector in the United States. With the future in mind, we use the backcasting approach to create new industries. We will then realize an environment in which humans can travel through space and live safely with peace of mind. I hope that all of you engage in this valuable work that is worth devoting yourselves to as engineers.  

March, 2024