Lego legend lands at ANU to help launch new space school

24 July 2019

World-renowned space exploration expert Professor Junichiro Kawaguchi has joined The Australian National University (ANU).

Professor Kawaguchi led the first successful mission to touchdown on an asteroid and bring samples back to Earth.

The success of the drama-packed mission to the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa, including a fuel leak and malfunctioning engines, has seen him immortalised with his own Lego figurine.

The mission was also the major plot line of the 2011 film Hayabusa

Professor Kawaguchi will now bring his out of this world space knowledge and formidable experience to ANU. He is the first appointment in the new Research School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Environmental Engineering in the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science.

As an Honorary Fellow, Professor Kawaguchi will help build the newly launched research school and attract some of the biggest names and brightest stars in space exploration to campus.

"I look forward to nurturing the next-generation of space experts, as well as helping ANU initiate a wide range of space-related activities," Professor Kawaguchi says.

"Australia is a unique country among developed nations when it comes to space.

"It has ratified the Moon Treaty and will play a leading role when it comes to how we use space resources - a demand that will only increase over coming decades."

Professor Kawaguchi also firmly believes Australia will play a major part in discovering and bringing back samples from other celestial bodies.

"I am really excited about what astrobiology will reveal over the next 50 years," Professor Kawaguchi says.

"There should be direct evidence of life on the surface of Mars, or the icy moons around Jupiter and Saturn.

"It should be thrilling and it will make history."

Professor Kawaguchi is the first of many recruits under the Reimagine project.

Reimagine is a transformational initiative to re-define the engineering and computing disciplines and bring together the best minds to solve the wicked problems of the 21st century. 

More about Professor Kawaguchi
Professor Kawaguchi has had a long and distinguished career in solar system exploration.

His most notable achievement is his role as Project Manager of the Hayabusa Mission from 1996 - 2011, during which time he organised the successful touchdown to surface of a near-Earth asteroid Itokawa and returned the sample back to Australia in 2010.

He has also been engaged in developing several interplanetary spacecraft and two moon exploration satellites, and served on the Board of Trustees of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) as a Board of Trustees.