As Elton John once wisely imparted on us, it’s lonely out in space. So, when Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata heads up to the International Space Station later this year to become the first Japanese commander there, he’ll have a little friend waiting for him.
Other astronauts from other lands will be there, but if Wakata needs a little comfort from home, he’ll have Kirobo. Kirobo is a small anthropomorphic robot co-designed by the University of Tokyo, Toyota, and Dentsu (an ad agency). Kirobo won’t be on the ISS to make tough repairs or collect data, though – he’s just there to be Wakata’s buddy while they’re both floating hundreds of miles above the Earth listening to the Blue Danube Waltz.
Kirobo will be able to talk and communicate both with Wakata and another robot on Earth. And, because he’s made in Japan, he has huge eyes and looks adorable – which, really, is the whole point. Kirobo’s not going to be doing anything else on the ISS – he’s only 34 cm tall, and weighs about 1 kg (a little over a foot, about 2.2 pounds). He’s just there to be tiny, friendly, and talk to Wakata to keep him company, and it looks like he’s more than up to the task.
Kirobo has already made his way into space with a bunch of other cargo, but he showed off a little of his talents at a press conference before leaving, saying, “One small step for me, a giant leap for robots.”
Via The Daily Mail