The Japanese Space Program

Political and Social Implications

by Paul Fritz Langer


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A review of Japan's space efforts and future trends. Through technological prudence and industry, the Japanese were able to move from production of a 9-inch sounding rocket in 1954 to a position among second-ranking space powers without a single major setback until 1966. That year the space program experienced difficulties because of (1) financial pressures encouraging hasty experiments and inadequate testing, (2) wastage from duplication in civilian and military agency operations, (3) indistinct space goals, (4) limited technical developments due to fear of military potential. Debate on whether to increase financial burdens in the hope of economic as well as prestige gains or to compromise between technological dependence and autarky indicates an emerging consensus over the latter course. Currently proposed centralization of the space program will give Japan a more active international role, but U.S. assistance will probably be required.

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