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Japanese Communications Robot To Join Astronaut On ISS And Just Hang, Bro

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Out in the cold, dark recesses of outer space, the stretches of desolate solitude would drive most people bonkers. We are rarely our own ideal company for any time longer than it takes to fully charge a cell phone. Even if there are other members of the crew, your own head is there, waiting for you to be alone so it can slam you with the paranoia of mechanical problems at the same time as making you nostalgic for your first kiss. Luckily, Japan is here to assist in introducing utter insanity to your psychological profile by presenting a communications robot to make space seem less lonely.

You may remember robotics genius Tomotaka Takahashi from his Robo Garage days, or maybe from his Evolta battery-powered robot that climbed part of the Grand Canyon a few years ago. Even if you don’t know who he is, it takes two seconds of looking at his work to make Robby the Robot look like a Robo Habilis.

His lastest project is the Kiro Robot Project, in conjunction with researchers from Tokyo University. The as-yet-nameless robot is 34 centimeters tall and will accompany mission commander Koichi Wakata for six-month mission aboard the International Space Station in the summer of 2013. It contains the technology necessary to recognize Wakata’s face and carry on a conversation with him, all while taking photos of the trip, relaying information back to the Kibo lab in Japan, and possibly complaining about how much worse the food is compared to back home.

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Space Debris Becoming A Big Problem Faster Than Expected

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Maybe it was the hubris of scientists who didn’t think that leaving their junk in space would cause issues. I mean, with all that space up there who could blame them? Unfortunately, that junk is going to become a bigger problem real soon if action isn’t taken.

The International Space Station had to be shifted last month in order to protect it from a piece of debris smaller than the palm of your hand. The ISS is roughly the size of a football field which you would think would be able to withstand a hit from a 4 inch object, but with the amount of vital systems exposed to outside interference, that one piece of debris, traveling faster than a speeding bullet, could essentially take the whole system down. Scary, huh?

And that’s not all. The chance that a launching rocket will collide with space junk is now at about 1% according to experts talking to NewsOK, with roughly 19,000 objects smaller than 4 inches and 500,000 objects between zero and ten centimeters taking up permanent residence in our atmosphere. That’s one out of every 100 launches that has potential to be taken down by a bolt or screw that has gotten left up there. With the prospect of human space flight rearing its head, this is something that could not only cost NASA millions of dollars in equipment, but also many human lives could easily be lost.