Saturday, March 22, 2008

Japanese astronaut finds boomerangs come back in space

Japanese astronaut Takao Doi has thrown a boomerang in space and found, to the surprise of many, that it does come back.

The 53-year-old conducted an experiment aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday, Japanese time, to see whether boomerangs fly back in space. Many had predicted that it wouldn't but Doi confirmed that it did indeed return to him.

"After finishing my duties on the eighth day, I threw it, and it did come back," he said.

Doi tested the boomerang in an American experimental module on the ISS, using a paper boomerang made by world boomerang-throwing champion Yasuhiro Togai. It was not immediately clear how the boomerang actually flew, but a photograph suggested that Doi had thrown it vertically, and it had returned to his hand.

It had been thought that gravity was necessary for a boomerang to return, and many people had expected that the boomerang would fly upwards if it was released in space. Togai had asked Doi to carry out the experiment, and before Doi traveled into space he had asked Togai about how to throw the boomerang and how to adjust its flight path.

"I can't express how happy I am that a boomerang I made flew in space and came back," Togai said. "There's a possibility that gravity does not play a large role in the process of it coming back and that Doi adjusted its angle to match conditions in space. I think this will help spread the appeal of boomerangs."

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