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In Japan, Eight People With Two Laptops Launch A Telescope Into Orbit

•, By Francie Diep

A new low-cost, highly automated rocket from Japan's space agency launched Saturday with just eight crew members and two laptops on-site. Japan's previous launches required teams of 150.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency sent the first of its new generation of launch vehicles into orbit carrying a telescope that will observe the atmospheres of Venus, Mars and Jupiter. The telescope's measurements will provide astronomers with clues to events early in the solar system's history, according to the agency's description of the project.

"A large control room could be integrated into a single laptop PC," the rocket's project manager, Yasuhiro Morita, said in a statement in 2011.
The new rocket, called Epsilon, has artificial intelligence to perform its own safety checks. Its computer system reduces the number of people needed at a launch site from the 150 that were standard at Japan's previous space launches.

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