The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency interviews science fiction writer Housuke Nojiri. Here’s an excerpt:
I had written some stories around girl heroines previously, but not about high school girls becoming astronauts. There is this stereotypical image of astronauts, established in the time of the Apollo missions, where they are believed to be very outstanding and heroic people, with the highest intelligence and the best physical ability. So people around me often said that there was no way girl-next-door-type high school teenagers could become astronauts. But, after studying the possibility very carefully, I was convinced that high school students are capable of going to space. The heroines of Rocket Girls go through a very intensive astronaut training program on a southern island, and succeed in space flight, even landing on the Moon. I believe that, if she is isolated from the rest of the world and forced to concentrate on training because there is nothing else to do, a high school girl can learn how to operate a spacecraft. With good instructors, it would also be possible for her to understand all the mechanics of spacecraft.
In fact, Akita University is holding the Rocket Girls Training Program, where high school girls can learn how to build a satellite and a rocket. In the beginning of the program, they just sat and listened to the instructors talk. But two months later, their faces began to change; you could tell that they were trying to figure things out for themselves. These students, who used to always ask, “what should I do here?”, soon started suggesting ideas and making progress, asking, “I did this here. Is that correct?” In the end, unfortunately, after its successful launch, the satellite couldn’t separate from its two-meter rocket.
They had so much pressure to make the one-time-only rocket launch successful. But building something with colleagues through trial and error is very similar to the real world of space development. Having such an experience at that age must have a great influence on their future. In fact, some of the girls have already decided to study science and technology at university. For space education, I think it’s very important to give the younger generation exposure to the world of space development.