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Japanese Astronaut to Launch Paper Airplane in Space

All those grade-schoolers zinging paper airplanes at their teachers' backs may actually be on to something. In November, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata will send a paper airplane soaring through space to see if it can survive the descent to Earth, the World Aeronautical Press Agency reports.

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Aeronautical engineers at the University of Tokyo are hoping their endeavor will lead to a new form of space flight.

The 7.8-inch plane will be treated with chemical agents to prevent it from bursting into flames. According to the report, tests performed in a wind gallery suggest it could be successful.

"With this experiment we will try to study a new model of space airplane," said professor Shinji Suzuki, the lead engineer on the experiment, reportedly inspired by the Japanese paper-folding art of origami, specifically an idea from Takuo Toda of the Japan Origami Plane Association.

The plane will launch from the international space station and is expected to reach a speed of Mach 20.

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