The robot will accompany Kouichi Wakata, the first Japanese commander of the International Space Station.
When Chris Hadfield retired from his post as commander of the International Space Station, we all knew his successor would have some pretty big boots to fill. That successor is Kouichi Wakata, who arrives at the station in November. He will be the first Japanese astronaut to act as commander of the ISS, and he’s bringing his robot, Kirobo, with him. Kirobo will be sent to the station ahead of Wakata in August, in an unmanned rocket, and he’s set to be the station’s smallest, and cutest new member.
Kirobo was birthed from a collaborative effort between Dentsu, the University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, Robo Garage, Toyota, and JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (similar to NASA). I’m sure you can guess just how astronomically expensive it is to send stuff up to the station, so how did Kirobo score a ride? Well, Kirobo can do many things.
He can communicate naturally with humans (which i’m sure will be a source of sanity in those lonesome space station modules), he can navigate zero-gravity environments, and he will assist Commander Wakata in various experiments. His main goal is to see how well robots and human can interact, hopefully leading the way to robots taking more active roles in assisting astronauts on missions. He also only weighs a kilogram, so he won’t need that much propulsion to send him where no robot has gone before.
You can watch the contagiously upbeat “commercial” for the project above. “Kibo” means “hope” in Japanese, which is where Kirobo gets his name from. The Japanese module of the ISS is also named “Kibo.” It seems the Japanese sure have invested a lot of hope into the station.
Source: Rocket News 24