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.
The Endeavor shuttle shot into space last week carrying loads of fancy equipment for the International Space Station. Among the new gadgets to be installed is a water recovery system that promises to recycle 93 percent of astronaut urine, sweat, exhaled water vapor, and other waste water back into drinkable water. The whole shebang cost about $250 million to develop, but that’s still cheaper than having to send periodic shuttles to the station to deliver fresh water.
Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is, what does it taste like?
New York Times reporter John Schwartz took it upon himself to find out. He went to the Kennedy Space center where NASA officials offered him a bottle of water made from a 2005 prototype of the system. (The scientists generously “donated” their own liquids for the test run.) The label on the bottle read, “We use only the finest ingredients! Urine, Perspiration, Food Vapors, Bath Water, Simulated Animal Waste, and a touch of Iodine. No Carbs or Calories Added.”
And Schwart’s verdict?