The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has sent a crew member to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a SpaceX launched rocked. The "Int-Ball," is a spherical camera droid that takes full advantage of the gravity deficiency on the space station to zip around unencumbered by wheels or arms attached to heavy machinery.
The robot has big, blue, owl-like eyes, making it reminiscent of the top portion of the Eve robot from Disney's Wall-E. Int-Ball's purpose is to provide crew members with a means of sending pictures and video back to Earth so experts on the ground can better assist with repairs and other tasks.
Before Int-Ball's arrival, the crew members needed to handle a camera to send this media back to Earth. The droid, which can be controlled remotely or autonomously, gives crew members back their full functionality by taking the camera out of their hands.
JAXA has released video of Int-Ball in action.
JAXA is committed to continuing improvements on Int-Ball's capabilities and functionality. Experiments like this will likely help space agencies and private companies to innovate new ways of incorporating both remote controlled and autonomous robots into their missions. Replacing astronauts with robots will help to further drive down the dwindling costs of space exploration and travel while allowing for exploration in ways that are beyond human capability.