Friday, December 14, 2012

A consortium of Japanese companies will send a humanoid robot into space in 2013. Its mission will be none other than to keep astronaut Koichi Wakata company and help him run operations on the International Space Station, sort of like a humanoid HAL 9000.

The robot is still under construction, but once built, it will be 13 inches tall and weigh 2.2 pounds. It will be able to recognize faces, do simple experiments such as mixing liquid, and send information back to scientists on the ground. The companies, which include car-maker Toyota, will build two robots, sending one into orbit and keeping one on Earth as a backup.

If the project is successful, it could pave the way for more collaboration between humans and robots in space, making life easier for astronauts. "We are thinking having a small humanoid, and doing some kind of experiment or a task together, [you can] get information from the robot and double-check each step," lead designer Tomotaka Takahashi told "The experiment will be smoother."