It will start with Robonaut 2, the humanoid maintenance bot that NASA is sending to the International Space Station next week. And now Japan’s space agency (JAXA) has announced plans to send its own bot to the ISS. JAXA’s humanoid robot will not only talk and Twitter, but it will also act as a space nurse, monitoring the health of the astronauts.
The researchers behind the project say the bot would have a number of attributes that would make it a valuable crew member. For example, they say, it would never have to sleep–so it could keep watch when the flesh and blood astronauts are in dreamland.
And then there are its conversational skills, which would make it a lively companion for those lonley spacefarers. “We are thinking in terms of a very human-like robot that would have facial expressions and be able to converse with the astronauts,” JAXA’s Satoshi Sano told the AP.
A new type of beer is being marketed to a very select demographic: space tourists. The special beer is about to undergo testing in a near-weightless environment to qualify it for drinking in space.
Unlike other space beers, which are created from barley that grew on the International Space Station, this space beer is being made especially to be consumed in space. The brew is a team effort from Saber Astronautics Australia and the 4-Pines Brewing Company (aka Vostok Pty Ltd), and will be given its low-gravity try-out by the non-profit organization Astronauts4Hire. From the Vostok Pty Ltd Facebook page:
As space exploration becomes more commercial, it is likely to support a market for the tasty brew. While the brew is designed to be enjoyed in low gravity environments (i.e., a space station, the Moon, or Mars) it will also be tasty on Earth.
The brew was bottled in early September and is expected to make its inaugural flight in November, aboard a plane that flies in long parabolic arcs to create periods of weightlessness. The beer will be tested for its qualitative taste and drinkability (hopefully not by the pilot). The reason why space-goers need their own beer is two-fold.
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have been tweeting from space for six months now, making that Twitter phenomenon officially old and busted. So what’s the new hotness? Tweets from an ISS-bound robot astronaut.
Robonaut 2 is currently cooling its heels at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, awaiting its scheduled trip to the International Space Station on November 1st. Once on board the ISS, the two-armed humanoid bot will help out astronauts with their duties; it expects to be particularly useful on tasks that are “too dangerous or boring for astronauts.” But it will also find time to tweet.
Already, Robonaut 2 has addressed some pressing questions via Twitter with answers like these:
“Robots are non-gender by design. I’m an it.”
“No, no relation to Hal. Don’t know if I’d want to admit to having him on my family tree if I was. Def. don’t condone his actions”
Fans can get much more information from the first robot astronaut during its “twitterview” tomorrow. Send a question marked #4R2 and Robonaut will begin answering them at 10 am CST.
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Image: flickr / NASARobonaut
It’s official. Even people in space are tweeting. NASA announced today that astronaut T.J. Creamer on the International Space Station has become the first person to tweet directly from space, making use of a brand new direct Internet connection. Creamer tweeted: “Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station — the 1st live tweet from Space! More soon, send your ?s”
Yay. Space tweets. Sweet.
In the past, astronauts could use email and twitter–but they had to relay their messages to ground control in Houston, who then sent them on. But now, thanks to the new system of personal Web access, called the Crew Support LAN, astronauts can take advantage of existing communication links to and from the station and browse the Web directly.
• Gardak! To learn about children and language, Dad speaks to son only in Klingon for first three years of the child’s life.
• In Soviet Russia, blog writes you! Maksim Suraev, a Russian cosmonaut, joins the blogosphere with a healthy dose of cold war humor about life on the International Space Station.
• Wisconsin looks to become the first state to recognize an official state microbe. Of course the bacterium, Lactococcus lactis, ferments the state’s $18 billion per year cheese industry.
• An Italian art collector found a mummified tooth, thumb, and finger of Galileo Galilei that have been missing since 1905, according to Florence’s History of Science museum.
Astronauts can’t be all business all the time; sometimes you just have to cut loose. Well that’s exactly what billionaire red-nosed clown Guy Laliberte intends to help the astronauts do when they blast into space tomorrow.
From the AP:
The man who hopes to be the first clown in space, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, said Tuesday he would tickle fellow astronauts as they sleep aboard the International Space Station.
The crew must be ecstatic to have him aboard. Laliberte might want to stick to handing out red noses and let the astronauts rest up so they can, um, fly a space shuttle.
MSNBC.com compiled a slideshow of their top nine space antics, a list that will surely include Laliberte’s ticklefest in the future. But for now it seems that astronauts’ favorite pastimes involve playing space golf, eating space fast-food, and dumping space trash.
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Most of us have experienced this frustrating situation: Nature is calling, so you rush to the nearest restroom, only to find that it’s sporting an “Out of Order” sign. Annoying, right?
Well, at least you weren’t hurtling through space at the time, hundreds of miles from the nearest plumber. Apparently, the toilet on the International Space Station has broken down, leaving the 13 crew members onboard with just a backup loo, and the crew of the shuttle Endeavour using the W.C. on that spacecraft.
According to BBC:
Mission Control told the crew to hang an “out of service” sign until the toilet can be fixed….
If repairs fail, Apollo-era urine collection bags are on hand, Nasa said. “We don’t yet know the extent of the problem,” flight director Brian Smith told reporters, adding that the toilet troubles were “not going to be an issue” for now.
The main toilet, a multi-million-dollar Russian-built unit, was flown up and installed on the US side of the space station last year. It had broken down once before, requiring a rush delivery of a replacement pump by the shuttle Discovery in 2008.
Another toilet-related problem arose earlier this year. That one was due to regulations that hold that Russian crew members on the ISS cannot use the American toilet.
In any case, let’s hope NASA gets the W.C. situation figured out soon. After all, it’s pretty hard to pull over for a pit stop 220 miles from Earth.
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Image: Wikimedia Commons
For the three crew members living aboard the International Space Station, sustainability isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity. The station is already powered by solar energy, but still relies on water sent periodically from Earth. On Friday, NASA’s space shuttle Endeavor will begin a special mission to deliver a water recovery system to the ISS that will recycle the crew’s urine and exhaled water vapor into drinkable water. Former ISS crew member Donald Pettit said thinking of the system as a fancy coffee machine might make the water go down easier: “It’s going to take yesterday’s coffee and make it into today’s coffee.” Or something like that.
Endeavor’s 15-day mission will give the decade-old ISS a complete truss-to-truss makeover. It will also deliver state-of-the-art exercise equipment, an extra fridge (the current one is reserved for science experiments, so the crew has been drinking lukewarm orange juice), an extra toilet, and sleeping quarters. The expansion will allow the station to house three more long-term crew members from Canada, Europe and Japan, all of whom are scheduled to arrive next spring. Astronauts arriving on the Endeavour will also help the current crew tackle a huge cleaning job, including four space walks to scrub the outside of the station.