Category Archives: JAXA (Japan)

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.


JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)

Japan is known for numerous things: sushi, samurai, advanced robotics, manga and a rapidly aging population to name but a few. Maybe not as well known abroad as NASA or ESA, Japan also has its own aerospace agency called JAXA, which in its current form is still very young. Its veteran astronaut – Koichi Wakata – is currently on board the International Space Station (not his first time either) and you can follow what he is up to on his Twitter account @Astro_Wakata.

JAXA, short for Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, was born in October 2003, in a merger of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL) and the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) to create efficiency in numbers, combining forces on anything from basic research to developement and administration. This year, on its 10th anniversary, the organization’s slogan became “Explore to Realize” aiming at the fact that they want to “build a safe and prosperous society” with their research and achievements. Not in the least, after the Fukushima nuclear disaster which the country is still recovering from and will be for many years to come, one of the agency’s top priorities is to establish a system for natural disaster management.

Another of JAXA’s goals is to revive its aircraft manufacturing industry while promoting the space industry as Japan’s key industry of the future. And as the most easterly country in Asia, JAXA will be thinking about creating hypersonic aircraft which can cross the Pacific Ocean in 2 hours at speeds of Mach 5. But Japan wouldn’t be Japan without some cutting-edge robot thrown into the mix right, whether it’s in anime or space…

Kirobo’s first words were “On August 21, 2013, a robot took one small step toward a brighter future for all,” and like all good astronauts even Kirobo (the word “kirobo” itself is a portmanteau of “kibō” (希望), which means “hope” in Japanese, and the word “robo” (ロボ), used as a generic short word for any robot) had a backup on Earth in the form of its twin robot Mirata.

Japan’s space program of course goes back a lot further than 2003 (the country’s first satellite – named OHSUMI – was put into orbit in February of 1970) but looking at recent developments, their new Epsilon rocket program seems to herald the dawn of a new era for Japan’s space industry. In a country which has had its fair share of bad luck in recent years, a new type of rocket that would only need 8 people at the launch site opposed to the 150 people from earlier launches, saving millions on every launch can only be a good thing, but more on that another time. Sayonara!

Constructing the ISS

Today In History – November 20

Fifteen years ago to the day, man began arguably the most challenging construction project in the history of the species: the International Space Station. Sure, you have CERN’s Large Hadron Collider which got constructed to look for several theorized particles including the Higgs particle and test theories around particle and high-energy physics. But for all that is marvelous about this enormous undertaking, that project was still on Earth – more precisely deep under the ground on Swiss and French territory – while the I.S.S. was assembled in space. Coincidently, both projects’ construction started in 1998 but the LHC took three years less to reach completion, in 2008. We covered the build of the station a while back in case you misssed it.