"Hello Kitty!" "Meow." "What can you see up there, Kitty?" "Meow." "Hmm..." "Meow.": Hello Kitty boldly goes where most earthlings have yet to go.
Japan’s ambassador of cute goes on a government-funded mission to outer space - no word from aliens so far.
The project to launch Sanrio Co Ltd’s mouth-less white cat with a pink bow into orbit is part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to promote Japan’s high-tech industry and engineer economic growth.
A 4cm-tall Hello Kitty figure is aboard the Hodoyoshi-3 satellite, looking through a window at Earth, Sanrio announced. The satellite, about the size of a large rubbish bin, was developed by Japanese researchers as part of a US$40mil programme funded by the education and science ministry.
The goal of the project is to get more private companies interested in working with satellites, said Toshiki Tanaka, researcher in charge of the project at the University of Tokyo’s Nano-Satellite Centre.
Developers chose Sanrio as their first private partner after judging that it could get Hello Kitty’s many fans interested in space. “Through this project we can make those people interested and stimulate their scientific curiosity. We can move their hearts,” Tanaka said.
Hello Kitty, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, is Sanrio’s most popular character. The mouthless cat has become a symbol of Japan’s culture of “kawaii”, or cute, and is used to market everything from plush toys to aircraft. The first ever Hello Kitty convention will be held in Los Angeles from Oct 30 to Nov 2, a testament to the cat's immense popularity among kids and adults alike.
Meanwhile, the Hello Kitty space project, which launched in June, has been one of trial and error for the Tokyo-based satellite developers. The researchers have been working on manoeuvring the satellite so it would point in the right direction when taking photos of Hello Kitty with Earth as a backdrop for the past two months. They also used special paint to coat the Hello Kitty mascot to protect it from UV rays, cosmic rays and vacuum space.
Sanrio has asked fans to submit 180-character messages that Hello Kitty could deliver from space to friends and family. Sanrio received 100 submissions in the first day, said Kazuo Tohmatsu, the company’s spokesman.
This is not the first time the cat character entered the realms of space. Last year, a US 7th grader sent her Hello Kitty doll up into low earth orbit with a space balloon as part of her school science project. Her YouTube video went viral and has been seen more than a million times. – Reuters