Ahead of Koichi Wakata's mission to the ISS this November, where he will take over as Commander of the space station, Japan has sent along Kirobo the talking robot with a H-2B rocket full of supplies in order to see if Machines can supply emotional support to human astronauts isolated over long periods.
Designed by Tomotaka Takahashi, Kirobo is about 13 inches tall and weighs about a kilogram. He'll arrive on the ISS, along with the supplies launched from Tanegashima Island early this morning, next Friday, August 9th, awaiting Wakata's arrival in November. Kirobo has been programmed to recognise and remember Wakata's face, and when the astronaut arrives, he'll communicate with Wakata in Japanese, as well as relay messages from the control room to the new Commander.
Kirobo has an earth-bound twin, Mirata, who will monitor Kirobo's condition as he begins operation on the ISS.