Japan eyes sending humanoid robot into orbit

AITopics Original Links

NASA's tough-looking Robonaut 2 is slated to ride the Space Shuttle Discovery into orbit this month, and now Japan says it wants to shoot its own humanoid robot to the International Space Station too. Japan's space agency JAXA says it may put a humanoid on the ISS in 2013 so it can watch over crew members while they sleep and monitor their health and stress levels. Engineers at the University of Tokyo and staff at advertising giant Dentsu apparently are working on the space droid. It would be intended for communication--sending pics to Earth via Twitter and boosting public interest in the ISS. NASA, on the other hand, wants humanoid robots to perform tasks on space walks in the future.

Are pogo-dancing robots headed to moon?

AITopics Original Links

Bipedal robots taking pogo-like leaps may be the future of moon exploration, according to an idea the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency intends to test in practice. The moon's gravity is roughly one-sixth that on Earth, which has made it hard for astronauts to maintain their balance as they tried to keep their feet on the planet's surface while walking around. The phenomenon is perhaps best associated in the popular mind with footage taken in 1969 of astronaut Neil Armstrong taking gravity-defying leaps on the moon. But JAXA, which is among the Japanese agencies that wants to send humanoid robot explorers to the moon in lieu of humans, believes the "pogo jumping" style would be the best way for the machines to carry out future explorations. Atsuo Takanishi of Tokyo's Waseda University is developing a software simulation of the Wabian-2R to test how a bipedal robot would fare under moon-like conditions.

Why this Japanese space mission comes with a 2,296-foot whip

Christian Science Monitor

Japan's space program, JAXA, soars this weekend after its robotic cargo spacecraft began its four-day journey to the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday. Onboard the spacecraft, called Kounotori (after the Japanese word for "white stork"), are more than four tons of cargo, including JAXA's massive debris clearing space whip and a new array of lithium ion batteries for the space station's solar arrays. Friday's cargo launch is particularly important after the failure of a Russian Progress cargo launch earlier this month. Several other cargo launches have met similar fates over the past two years. "Spaceflight's not an easy thing," said NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson in an interview aboard the ISS.