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“Man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole.”

– William Burroughs, Author (1914 – 1997)

World View Enterprises

For those who don’t fancy being launched into space at a few thousand miles an hour, there seems to be another option in the making to experience what it will be like leaving our planet behind for a short period of time. Check out the stunning video below, from a company called World View Enterprises.

World View’s high-altitude balloon lets Voyagers gently soar for hours on end in a comfortable, smartly-outfitted, specially designed space capsule. It won’t technically make you an astronaut, but what an experience it must be. At $75,000 per “Voyager” (i.e. paying customer), flights are planned to commence in 2016. Start putting it on those birthday wish lists!

“War and space exploration are alternative uses of the assertive, exploratory energies that are so characteristic of human beings. They may also be mutually exclusive because if one occurs on a massive scale, the other probably will not.”

– Frank White, The Overview Effect, 1981


International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG)

Many people will never have heard of ISECG, and this won’t exactly change any time soon as the organisation isn’t focused on delivering its message to the public at large. The International Space Exploration Coordination Group is a multilateral effort by (at date of writing) 13 space agencies* to chart future space exploration goals in what they call a Global Exploration Roadmap whose goal is to reduce duplication in what most nations agree will be an endeavor too costly for any nation acting alone.

“The ISECG is a voluntary, non-binding international coordination mechanism through which individual agencies may exchange information regarding interests, objectives, and plans in space exploration with the goal of strengthening both individual exploration programs as well as the collective effort.”

The organisation will organise a number of workshops during the course of 2014 and after talking about challenges like cost reduction (space agencies can learn something from the likes of SpaceX here), keeping astronauts healthy and productive during space exploration missions and what’s left to be done to enable a human mission to the surface of Mars.

There’s an interesting paper titled “Benefits Stemming from Space Exploration” which outlines by a number of space agencies the benefits of space exploration to society for those who are interested in reading more about it.

Perhaps a bit dry for some, but definitely an initiative that can only be applauded when we all benefit from it. No reason to invent the wheel a dozen times over right?

* The following space agencies are ISECG members (in alphabetical order): ASI (Italy), CNES (France), CNSA (China), CSA (Canada), CSIRO (Australia), DLR (Germany), ESA (European Space Agency), ISRO (India), JAXA (Japan), KARI (Republic of Korea), NASA (United States of America), NSAU (Ukraine), Roscosmos (Russia), UKSA (United Kingdom).

“The wise man looks into space and does not regard the small as too little, nor the great as too big, for he knows that, there is no limit to dimensions.”

– 莊子 Zhūangzi (369 BC – 286 BC)

Kirobo on the ISS

Robot Astronauts: Kirobo & Mirata

Japan has always been at the forefront of robotics, driven by the need to prepare itself for an ever more aging population that is looking for ways to support itself. So it comes as no surprise that when we talk about Robot Astronauts, the pioneers are Japanese… Meet Kirobo and Mirata.!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/japan-robonaut.jpg

What makes these two little robots so special is that at about 34 cm tall and weighing only about a kilo, their Japanese language flows in a natural humanlike by any standard, learning as they go along. They can recognise faces and record video, and pretty much have a normal unscripted conversation as demonstrated in the many videos on their YouTube channel where Kirobo is talking with Commander Wakata – Japan’s veteran Astronaut – aboard the International Space Station. The main goal of these experiments in zero-gravity which they were designed to navigate in is to see how well robots and humans can interact, with a view to having robot astronauts assist on future space missions. Mirata, Kirobo’s identical twin in the meantime stayed on Earth as backup similar to how it would work with a human astronaut.

The Japanese surely believe that humans and robots one day will coexist. Kirobo, its name derived from the Japanese word for hope, and robot – is definitely an exciting step forward so who knows… Below the video, you can find the transcript in English – Enjoy!

Kibo Robot Project


0:04 A truly magnificent project of national policy calibre.

The world needs to know Japan’s real ability.


0:16 Summer of 2013

0:42 The robot astronaut sets out on a journey

0:47 Kibo Robot Project

0:53 Tsukuba Space Center

Sound test

0:54 The hope of Japan’s technological strength

0:55 Environment test

0:57 EMC test

0:59 Connection test

1:01 Man: This will take some time.

1:02 Robot:  Good work everyone!

1:05 Robot: I am a robot astronaut.

1:08  The hope for our children’s future and the hope of a future where humans and robot coexist rest on its little back

1:20 International space station

1:22 Zero gravity test

1:22 International space station.  Hope.  In the Japanese experiment module, a conversation experiment with Astronaut Wakata is carried out.

1:27 Robot: Hello!

1:33: Man: We’re counting on you.

1:35: Robot: No problem.  I’m a robot after all.

1:46: Kibo Robot project

1:49: This summer, our adventure with the robot astronaut begins.

“The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light.

The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.

– Tahereh Mafi, from her book “Shatter Me”