A solution in search of a problem

The space program, at least in its infancy, changed the technology of America in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

Still, it’s hard to imagine what the future benefit will be of this. The University of Tokyo is teaming up with a paper airplane group to build a paper airplane, which will be launched from the International Space Station, to prove that it can float to earth without burning up.

As we’ve seen too tragically, the speed of spacecraft re-entering earth’s atmosphere creates intense — and dangerous — heat.

But slowing the rate of return of an object from space to prove that it can withstand re-entry without heat protection has already been proven, with the Burt Rutan-designed Spaceship One, which changed into the equivalent of a fluttering leaf to re-enter the atmosphere.

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