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“Hayabusa” and “Toranoko” (Tiger Cub)

The operation team at ISAS prepares a “performance calculation document” each time a satellite or explorer is launched. The document, which prescribes the rocket’s flight plan and the satellite or explorer’s initial orbit plan, is distributed to the relevant experimental team members. It is customary to give a nickname to each document. In the early days, a series of cigarette brands were used, for example, “Hatellite” for L-4S-1 in 1966, followed by “Seven Star,” etc. Since the M-3S-1 in 1980, the brand names of Japanese sake have been used. We look for a brand that will suit the particular satellite’s character and make an original label for the document. The original labels only decorate the front cover of the document, and are not put on sale.

For the latest explorer Hayabusa (MUSES-C), we chose the sake “Toranoko” (tiger cub) brewed in Saga Prefecture. Mr. Matogawa, chief editor of ISAS News, made the following recommendation: “Thinking about the sake label to decorate the cover of the MUSES-C’s document, I remembered Santouka, a famous Japanese poet. With only a vague memory, I thumbed through his anthology and found the perfect title for MUSES-C. Asteroids are crucial to elucidate the birth and evolution of the solar system. In other words, an asteroid is just like a ‘tiger cub’ (i.e., something very important).

“We chose the fine sake Toranoko with the expectation that MUSES-C will establish new technologies - such as the ion engine, the innovative sample collection method and direct return from interplanetary space - and lay a firm foundation for the coming era of sample return from small celestial bodies. It so happens that the sake is from Saga Prefecture, the home of Mr. Kouchiro Tsuruta who recently became Director-General of ISAS after Mr. Hiroki Matsuo.”

Once the brand was fixed, the young members at the control center took the initiative to design the label. The phrases on the Toranoko label were changed: The line “A tiger is said to run one thousand leagues” became “This spacecraft flies one thousand leagues”; “Consumption of alcohol is permitted for those aged 20 or older” became “Return is permitted after 4 years.” The phrase “Please be careful when opening the top” was used as is. “Date of manufacture” was changed to “Arrival date: June 2006”. The telephone number became “1998SF36” (the identification number of the target asteroid). The name of brewery became Kawaguchi Shuzo, after the explorer’s chief engineer. The team members enjoyed finding ways to conceal elaborate puns in the label.

After the success of the MUSES-C launch, Ide Shuzo, the brewers of Toranoko, sent us a celebratory message. “It is said that a tiger runs over one thousand leagues. We wish that the explorer accomplishes its mission successfully in deep space and returns safely. Just as the tiger deeply cares for its cubs…” Along with the message came more fine Toranoko sake, and, naturally, it helped to make our celebration party more joyous.

June 27, 2003