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Japan Unveils First Robot Astronaut

By: RTV/CBS
By: RTV/CBS

Japanese researchers unveiled Japan

Kirobo will be launched into space in August on a Japan aerospace exploration agency (JAXA) space rocket and head to the International Space Station (ISS). (Courtesy: RTV/CBS)

Japanese researchers unveiled Japan's first robot astronaut 'Kirobo' and his earth-bound mate 'Mirata' on Wednesday (June 26) in Tokyo.

Kirobo will be launched into space in August on a Japan aerospace exploration agency (JAXA) space rocket and head to the International Space Station (ISS).

It will then start to communicate with JAXA astronaut commander Koichi Wakata before his arrival at the space station towards the year end.

"I heard from Wakata that the other astronauts on the International Space Station are asking him whether a Japanese robot is coming onboard the station and they are really looking forward to its arrival," said Tokyo University associate professor Tomotaka Takahashi.

The other astronauts will, unfortunately, not be able to interact with the visiting robot unless they speak Japanese.

Kirobo cannot speak English and communicates only in the native tongue of its Japanese creators.

The robot will conduct experiments in space by taking verbal orders from Wakata and by remote-control from earth.

Kirobo's counter-part, Mirata will be staying on earth.

Both robots are identical except that earth-bound Mirata has the ability to accumulate knowledge and learn.

The one kilogram, 34-centimetre-high Kirobo and Mirata were developed by Tokyo University, Toyota Motor Corporation, advertising agency Dentsu and Robo Garage.

Dentsu copywriter Yorichika Nishijima said he hoped this space project will boost the nation's self-esteem.

"The Japanese economy has been moribund until now and Japan is losing to the surrounding Asian countries so we figured it's better if we brought our confidence back through this project. When we were little, we were raised thinking that Japan's economy is number one. But now, we have no dreams or aspirations, and we thought it will be good to gather Japan's technological prowess for such a project," he said.

Kirobo is scheduled to return to earth in December 2014.


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