In this March 23, 2009 file photo, The 158 centimeter (62.2 inch) tall “Cybernetic human” robot code-named HRP-4C, developed at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, walks on the catwalk during a fashion show as part of the opening day event of Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo. Japan’s space agency JAXA announced Monday, Feb. 14, 2011, that it is considering putting a talking humanoid robot on the International Space Station in 2013 to watch the mission while astronauts are asleep, monitor their health and stress levels and communicate to Earth through the microblogging site Twitter. (AP Photo/Shizo Kambayashi, FILE)
TOKYO (AP) — Lonely astronauts on the International Space Station may soon be getting an android friend from Japan.
And for the folks back home, it will tweet.
space agency is considering putting a talking humanoid robot on the
International Space Station to watch the mission while astronauts are
asleep, monitor their health and stress levels and communicate to Earth
through the microblogging site Twitter.
space agency JAXA announced this week that it is looking at a plan to
send a humanoid robot to the space station in 2013 that could
communicate with the ground through Twitter — primarily feeding photos,
rather than original ideas — and provide astronauts with “comfort and
up on NASA’s “Robonaut” R-2 program, which is set for launch on the
Discovery shuttle next week, the Japanese android would be part of a
larger effort to create and refine robots that can be used by the
elderly, JAXA said in a statement.
is one of the leading countries in robotics, and has a rapidly aging
society with one of the world’s longest life-expectancies.
robot communication capabilities could help the elderly on Earth by
providing a nonintrusive means of monitoring the robot owner’s health
and vital signs and sending information to emergency responders if there
is an abnormality, JAXA said.
are thinking in terms of a very human-like robot that would have facial
expressions and be able to converse with the astronauts,” said JAXA’s
In this May 7, 2009 file photo, Kudan Elementary School children touch a cheek of Japan’s robot teacher Saya following a special class by the robot that can express six basic emotions, developed by Tokyo University of Science Professor Hiroshi Kobayashi, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, FILE)
The robot was being developed with the advertising and communications giant Dentsu Inc. and a team at Tokyo University.
NASA project has human-like head, hands and arms and uses the same
tools as station crew members. The “Robonaut” called R-2 — a shout-out
to R2-D2 of “Star Wars” fame — is intended to carry out maintenance
tasks in the station’s Destiny lab.
says it hopes that humanoid robots could one day stand in for
astronauts during spacewalks or perform tasks too difficult or dangerous
for humans. For now, the US$2.5 million NASA robot exists only from the
waist up and is limited to activities within the lab.
robot also uses Twitter, but generally just messages relayed from NASA
spokespeople. Sano said the agency is considering ways to program the
Japanese version to be more original.
importantly, he said, the Japanese project is intended to build on the
R-2 idea by providing a more communicative companion for the astronauts
has no manned space program of its own, but its astronauts have been
part of the space station crew and Japan also maintains a laboratory,
called “Kibo,” or Hope, on the station.
said that JAXA hopes the robot’s communications with Earth while there
are no Japanese passengers on the space station will help maintain
public interest and support in the mission.
said the first Japanese astronaut to tweet from space was Soichi
Noguchi, who returned to Earth in June last year after several months
aboard the ISS.
SOURCE: The Associated Press