A video released on Friday showed the one kilogram, 34-centimeter-high robot being packaged into an insulated box, which will be sent to space aboard H-IIB rocket operated by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The robot will conduct experiments in space by taking verbal orders from JAXA’s astronaut commander and by remote-control from earth before his arrival at the space station towards the year end.
The other astronauts will, unfortunately, not be able to interact with the visiting robot unless they speak Japanese, Kirobo’s native tongue. Kirobo was developed by Tokyo University, Toyota Motor Corporation, advertising agency Dentsu and Robo Garage. The cargo resupply vessel “Kounotori” will also take up 3.6 tons of dry cargo, water, experiments and spare parts to the ISS. It is set to berth with the ISS on August 9. Kirobo is scheduled to return to Earth in December 2014.
Kirobo’s name derives from the Japanese words for “hope” and “robot”.
The small android weighs about 1kg (2.2 pounds) and has a wide range of physical motion. Its design was inspired by the legendary animation character Astro Boy.
Kirobo has been programmed to communicate in Japanese and keep records of its conversations with Mr Wakata who will take over as commander of the ISS later this year.
In addition, it is expected to relay messages from the control room to the astronaut.
“Kirobo will remember Mr Wakata’s face so it can recognise him when they reunite up in space,” the robot’s developer, Tomotaka Takahashi said.
“I wish for this robot to function as a mediator between a person and machine, or a person and the Internet, and sometimes even between people.”
The biggest challenge was to make the android compatible with space, Mr Takahashi added.
Dozens of tests were carried out over nine months to ensure Kirobo’s reliability.
Kirobo has a twin robot on Earth called Mirata, which will monitor any problems its electronic counterpart may experience in space.
“It’s one small step for me, a giant leap for robots,” Mirata said of the mission last month.
The endeavour is a joint project between Mr Takahashi, car producer Toyota and advertising company Dentsu.