Unprecedented 2020 is ending with a slight hope to overcome the COVID-19 outbreak at least in Australia.
I have worked on my project, which is to understand how neurons work during a real pursuit, with enthusiasm throughout this year. The project contained uncountable challenging steps for establishing the naturalistic visual stimuli; getting high-quality neural response data with electrodes, that were contaminating defective products as we realised later. Finally, we are undertaking data analysis and interpretation, which have not been straightforward either. Although this year is unprecedented and my cat became my only co-worker for at least three months, we could move this project forward this far in an excellent lab. I am grateful to Karin and my lab mates for their support and positive influence and inspiration throughout 2020. We are planning to get this out as a paper early next year, which should be a lot safer and better year.
There is another thing I want to remember as a representative of 2020. That is Japan's Hayabusa2 mission. Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched a spacecraft named Hayabusa2 in 2014 to explore the origins of the planets as well as the origin of the water of Earth's oceans and the source of life. Unmanned Hayabusa2 went to the asteroid Ryugu to observe it and to grab subsurface materials. After travelling more than 5.2 billion kilometres over six years, Hayabusa2 came back close enough to Earth for releasing a capsule containing the materials of Ryugu into Earth's gravitational grasp. The return capsule landed on the Woomera Prohibited Area about 500 kilometres north-west of Adelaide at about 4 am on last Sunday.
Since the Hayabusa2 project members arrived in Adelaide to prepare for the capsule return, I had been very fascinated to welcome the return and to witness the achievement. Therefore, I waked up at 3 am and went up a hill to see the direction where the capsule would make a trajectory while watching live streaming from JAXA. I could not see the trajectory apparently since it was too far and raining. However, I could experience the exciting moment together with everyone who was watching.
I was impressed by the astounding technology to predict and manipulate the landing position and time incredibly correctly; how carefully the project team prepared for finding the capsule with at least three back-up plans. Moreover, it was striking to see smiles of scientists achieving astonishing goals. I hope many children saw them and knew how science is exciting and how scientists fulfil the challenge with enthusiasm. It is ashamed that I cannot share that kind of moments with the public as live streaming, because it often occurs in a small dark room.
After delivering the capsule, Hayabusa2 skipped away and is continuing its journey for a rendezvous with the asteroid 1998 KY26, which will be 11 years later. I cannot wait to see the smiles again in 2031.