Hello Kitty Becomes Japan’s Symbolic Astronaut

November 16, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. dispatch /dɪˈspætʃ/ (v.) – to send someone or something to a particular destination for a particular purpose
Example: A medical specialist is dispatched into space to ensure that the astronauts are healthy and safe from injury.

2. miniature /ˈmɪn i ə tʃər, -ˌtʃʊər, ˈmɪn ə tʃər/ (adj.) – being small in size
Example: The store sells miniature toy cars that can be used as key chains.

3. orbit /ˈɔr bɪt/ (v.) – to travel around something in a circular path
Example: It takes a satellite less than two hours to orbit the earth.

4. trial and error /ˈtraɪ əl ænd ˈɛr ər/ (n.) – a method of experimentation in which all options are tested to determine which works best
Example: They had to build many versions of the satellite for trial and error before they can send it into space.

5. mascot /ˈmæs kɒt, -kət / (n.) – a figure of a person, animal, or thing used to represent an idea, event, or organization
Example: They chose a cartoon of a kid astronaut to be the mascot for a children’s space camp.


Read the text below.
In an effort to demonstrate its progressing economy and technological industry, Japan has dispatched a celebrated cultural figure into space—Hello Kitty. 

Known as the Hello Kitty project, the initiative aims to send a small-scale satellite into outer space with a miniature Hello Kitty figure as its passenger. It is headed by the University of Tokyo’s Nano-Satellite Center in collaboration with the major Japanese company, Sanrio [sahn-ree-YO], which created Hello Kitty. The project has proven successful since the satellite, Hodoyoshi-3, reached space and began to orbit earth in June.

According to its head researcher, the Hello Kitty project is part of Nano-Satellite Center’s trial and error in improving Japanese satellite technology. Furthermore, the project seeks to inspire more independent Japanese companies to take an interest in satellite manufacturing and development. Indeed, the researchers chose to work with Sanrio in the hope of motivating its Hello Kitty fans to join in their growing industry.

The Hello Kitty project, which is funded by the Japanese education and science ministry, is part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s [SHEEN-zoh ah-be] effort to exhibit Japan’s strength in science and technology. Notable for being Japan’s mascot of cuteness, Hello Kitty is internationally recognized as a figure that symbolizes Japan and its modern culture.

To further promote and contribute to the project, Sanrio celebrates Hello Kitty’s fortieth anniversary this year by encouraging fans to send short messages to the Hello Kitty figure inside Hodoyoshi-3. The satellite can then deliver the messages to friends and loved ones from space.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think the Hello Kitty project would inspire people to be interested in satellite technology? Why or why not?
·         If you were to choose another famous character or mascot to represent your country in space, what or who would it be? Please explain your answer.

Discussion B

·         Would you want to go to space? Why or why not?
·         Why do you think science and technology should be promoted? Please explain your answer.

November 16, 2014