From today's BBC's Japan developing wooden satellites to cut space junk:

"We are very concerned with the fact that all the satellites which re-enter the Earth's atmosphere burn and create tiny alumina particles which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years," Takao Doi, a professor at Kyoto University and Japanese astronaut, told the BBC.

"Eventually it will affect the environment of the Earth."

"The next stage will be developing the engineering model of the satellite, then we will manufacture the flight model," Professor Doi added.

As an astronaut he visited the International Space Station in March 2008.

During this mission, he became the first person to throw a boomerang in space that had been specifically designed for use in microgravity.

Question: How does one throw a boomerang in space? Does it return? Will space boomerangs be standard issue for Space Force?

Reading about Takao Doi one sees quite a list of accomplishments, including discovering two supernovae in their spare time. For someone so versatile perhaps space-boomerang-throwing came easy.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Dec 31, 2020 at 17:44

2 Answers 2

  1. You throw it in space (in the ISS) just like you would in a room on Earth.
  2. It returns to you if it is properly built, and you are capable of properly throwing a boomerang to make it return (this does take some skill.)
  3. A returning boomerang will only work in atmosphere - inside a spacestation or on a planet. They depend on aerodynamic forces for the return. Given the requirement of an atmosphere, it is unlikely they will be adopted by armed forces in space (who will presumably need weapons that work in vacuum.)
  4. A non-returning boomerang (probably) doesn't greatly rely on aerodynamic effects and could conceivably be of use in a vacuum environment.

Reference for (1) and (2): Video of Takao Doi throwing a returning boomerang aboard the ISS.

Reference for (3) and (4): Wikipedia boomerang article.

Apparently, Ulf Merbold performed the same experiment in 1992 aboard Spacelab. It was repeated in 1997 by Jean-François Clervoy aboard Mir. Cosmonaut Sergi Treschev tried to make a boomerang return aboard the ISS, but failed. This makes Takao Doi the fourth to throw a boomerang in space and the first to successfully do so aboard the ISS.

Takao Doi throwing a returning boomerang aboard the ISS:

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ I'm actually surprised they found a large enough open space up there to do this experiment. Still, this only worked with a small, lightweight plastic boomerang. It's doubtful you'd be able to throw a full-sized one aboard the ISS given the cramped quarters, making it not much use as a weapon even if you do have available atmosphere. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2020 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ I just noticed Doi's clever microgravity implementation of a three-point stance $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Dec 29, 2020 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ I would expect the course the boomerang takes would differ in zero gee; in gravity it needs to have lift as well as turn, in zero gee, just turn, ie lift direction in line with the thrower? Did Takao Doi have practice throws before someone recorded it? $\endgroup$
    – Ken Fabian
    Dec 29, 2020 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ A non returning boomerang? Isn't that just a stick? $\endgroup$
    – corsiKa
    Dec 30, 2020 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ @corsiKa: Not quite. Non-returning boomerangs are shaped to fly better and hit harder than a plain stick. $\endgroup$
    – JRE
    Dec 30, 2020 at 17:34

The return function of a boomerang works in the atmosphere only. Therefore no return in the vacuum of space.

The 'arms' of a boomerang are profiled like a airplane wing, but wings do not work without air.

(The ISS isn't a vacuum, and so boomerangs "work" in them.)


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