Japan’s Kirobo Robot Brings Cute to the Space Station

The 13-inch astro-bot begins a year-and-a-half tour in orbit

You can almost hear Robonaut grumbling from here.

While NASA’s robotic astronaut has spent the last two years undergoing very sober, methodical engineering tests inside the International Space Station (that is, when it’s even powered on), Japan’s Kirobo robot arrived on Friday with a much fluffier mission — to promote Japan’s goal of fostering human-robot interaction throughout society.

The foot-high toy robot is scheduled to remain on the station for 18 months, during which time it will “converse” with astronaut Koichi Wakata, who arrives in November.

Here’s a promotional video — listen for strains of the “Astroboy” theme at the end.

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