Last Nov. 24, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. successfully launched an H-IIA F-29 rocket carrying a Canadian communications satellite, marking Japan's first entry into the commercial satellite market.

More good space-related news came on Dec. 11, when astronaut Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) returned from a five-month stay on the International Space Station (ISS).

Although these developments led many to dream of a bright future for Japan's space program, an insider in the governing Liberal Democratic Party is more cautious. He says Japan's space development is in fact a "public works project disguised as science and technology," and that the future of Japanese-made rockets is by no means bright.