About PERC

Director

Director, Research Center for Planetary Exploration, Chiba Institute of Technology

Takafumi Matsui

Let’s focus on elucidating “life” at the scale of the universe beyond the limits of the earth

The pioneering of new “knowledge”, what is life and how it was born, was born around the 21st century. In science, humans have always pioneered a new horizon of “knowledge”. The target was initially to investigate what the planet Earth looks like. Therefore, it was necessary to examine the planets of the solar system. As research has progressed, we have gained a general understanding of the earth, and since the beginning of this century, there has been a movement to clarify the “life” that lives there rather than the entire earth. At present, the existence of life is confirmed only on the earth, but on the scale of the universe, the movement has shifted to focusing on research once again on life. This “knowledge” system is called “astrobiology”. This is my research theme. “Astrobiology” was originally named by NASA in the United States, but I think it will be the foundation of science in the 21st century.

There are several events that we humans have confirmed by the 20th century. In academic fields, I confirmed that physics and chemistry were established in the universe. In other words, you can understand everything in the universe by using physics and chemistry. More specifically, physics and chemistry have “universality” in the universe. On the other hand, what about current biology? Since the target organism is only on the earth, it is not a study established on a cosmic scale. I myself think that in theory there should be a lot of life not only on the earth but also in the universe. If you don’t actually confirm it, you won’t start. I think that will be the scientific challenge for mankind in the 21st century. Solving that challenge is the study of astrobiology, which seeks to clarify the “universality of life” on a cosmic scale. There are many environments and materials in the universe that are very similar to the Earth, and it is no wonder that there is another world where life exists. Since the end of the 20th century, celestial bodies that are actually similar to Earth have begun to be found in the galaxy. Therefore, in the future, everyone will study and discuss the origin of life on a cosmic scale.

Promote planetary exploration projects throughout the university by applying advanced technologies and robotics

In April 2009, we started the Planetary Exploration Research Center at Chiba Institute of Technology. Planetary exploration is an unmanned exploration satellite equipped with a robot observation device that flies to the planet and conducts various surveys. We use robots to explore what materials the rocks of the planet are made of, how the terrain was formed, the presence of organic matter, and traces of life.

First of all, the first step is to accumulate various experiments and theoretical research, which are processes for planetary exploration. There are many unknown areas such as the development of experimental equipment that mimics the planetary environment and new observation equipment, so advanced science and technology is required. To that end, activities in cooperation with national projects in Japan and overseas, such as Japan’s JAXA, NASA (USA) and ESA (Europe), are necessary. Chiba Institute of Technology also has a fuRo (Future Robot Technology Research Center) that develops advanced robots and an engineering technology collaboration system that goes beyond the department. In order to expand our field of knowledge, we intend to apply the superior robotics and advanced technology of this university in the future to make use in the research of planetary exploration.

In academic studies, it is important to clarify what you are studying for. The goal of the Planetary Exploration Research Center is to know the origin of the earth and life, explore the future, and open up a new world of “knowledge” for humankind. To that end, we believe that we need to become “aliens” who can see planets and life from a wider world and space, not just “earthers”. Based on this center, the exploration for new “knowledge” will spread to the endless universe.

Biography

Bio

  • MAR 1970: Graduated from Department of Geophysics, University of Tokyo
  • MAR 1976: Doctor of Science (Graduate School of Science, University of Tokyo)

Occupation

  • APR 1976: Post Doctoral Fellow, JSPS
  • MAR 1977: Visiting Scientist, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston
  • JUN 1978: Assistant Professor, Faculty of Science, The University of Tokyo
  • OCT 1985: Invited Foreign Scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.
  • AUG 1987: Invited Foreign Scientist, Michigan State University, U.S.
  • APR 1992: Associate Professor, Faculty of Science, The University of Tokyo
  • JUN 1992-SEP 1995: Visiting Professor, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Germany
  • APR 1994: Associate Professor, Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo
  • APR 1999-2009: Professor, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences/ Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo
  • OCT 2005-MAR 2007: Director, Science Interpreter Training Program, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo
  • MAR 2009: Retirement from The University of Tokyo
  • APR 2009: Director, Planetary Exploration Research Center, Chiba Institute of Technology
  • JUN 2009: Emeritus Professor, The University of Tokyo

Memberships (2009~)

  • Member of Science Council of Japan (2006~)
  • Council of Science and Technology Policy (Cabinet office, Government of Japan) (2009)
  • Distinguished Fellow of The Tokyo Foundation (2009~)
  • Senior Researcher Councilor for the Institute for International Policy Studies (2009~)
  • Council of Space Development Policy (Cabinet office, Government of Japan) (2011~2012)
  • Acting Chairman of Committee on National Space Policy (Cabinet office, Government ofJapan) (2012~)
  • Trustees of Shizuoka University of Art and Culture (2009~)
  • others: Director/Councilor of various foundations

Awards

  • 1988: Meteorological Society of Japan, Horiuchi Award
  • 1997: Mother’s Forest Award (Awarded to eminent people from various fields.)
  • 2007: 61st Mainichi Shuppan Bunka Award (Awarded to the author of eminent book published in 2007)
  • 2014: Japan Geoscience Union Fellow (Awarded for outstanding contribution to planetary science in particular to the understanding of the formation and evolution of the atmosphere and oceans; and numerous contributions to popularization of geoscience.)

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