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Welcome to Disrupting Japan. Straight Talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs.
I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me.
Today we’re going to talk about moonshots, and I don’t mean moonshots in the sense of wildly ambitious dreams, although come to think of it, yeah, yeah. We’re also going to talk a lot about wildly ambitious dreams.
But today’s focus is on actually going to the moon. Shin Nakajima’s startup Dymon has built a lunar rover called Yaoki that later this year we’ll be traveling to the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis project.
Now, the name Yaoki comes from the Japanese expression nanakorobi-yaoki, which means falling down seven times and getting up eight. It means persisting in the face of repeated failures. It means never giving up. And both that word and that outlook on life feature prominently in today’s conversation.
We have an interesting debate on the role startups have to play in space exploration. And I don’t mean just the SpaceX scale startups. SpaceX is doing awesome things, but most aspiring founders don’t have access to the level of capital needed to play at that scale. We’re talking about how small teams of innovators can make a difference and how NASA and maybe even JAXA are changing in order to give them the chance to make that difference.
Shin and I talk about the design of the Yaoki Rover itself, how we raised money for a project that almost no one believed in, and what it really takes to get your technology approved for a NASA mission.
But, you know, Shin tells that story much better than I can. So let’s get right to the interview.
Tim: So we’re sitting here with Shin Nakajima of Dymon, so thanks for sitting down with us.
Shin: Thank you. Me too.
Tim: You make this amazing lunar rover Yaoki, which is just amazingly cool. Tell us a little about the rover.
Shin: This is what I am developing for 10 years, and now it’s finished, and now it is contract with NASA Moon Rover project, which is called an Artemis. We are joining for commercial .
Tim: Right. And for our listeners who can’t see this, this looks nothing like you would imagine a lunar rover would look like. It’s like, can I hold it?
Shin: Yes, you can.
Tim: Okay. That’s so cool. I don’t even know how to describe it. It looks like a little barbell with treads on it.
Tim: I mean, this is really tiny, right?
Shin: So very, very tiny. And it’s just on the hand.
Tim: So it’s about six inches by six inches or so.
Shin: It looks like a camera, camera size, and the two holes. And also this can lamb even drop because the hole is covering the body. So each time, every time wheel can touch the ground.
Tim: So no matter what happens to it, it will always have wheels on the ground.
Tim: All of us can always move forward. And that’s actually part of the name, right?
Shin: This name is Yaoki. Yaoki come from the nanakorobi-yaoki. Nanakorobi-yaoki direct translate to English is seven drops, but eight coming up.
Tim: So fall down seven times. Stand up eight.
Shin: So I never give up.
(Continued on Disrupting Japan)
[ This content is provided in partnership with Tokyo-based startup podcast Disrupting Japan. Please enjoy the podcast and the full transcript of this interview on Disrupting Japan's website! ]