Japan may have been nowhere near putting the first man into orbit or on the moon, but today it sent the first robot "astronaut" to the International Space Station. Tucked among some 5 tons of supplies headed to the ISS is a 13-inch-tall talking humanoid robot named Kirobo, reports the AP, which is designed to function and talk in zero gravity and meant as a companion for Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who is set to arrive at the ISS in November. Today's launch from southwestern Japan is "one small step for me, a giant leap for robots," Kirobo told the press corps.
The pint-sized 'bot, which will also communicate with another robot on Earth, is a joint venture between the University of Toyko, Dentsu, and Toyota. "I wish for this robot to function as a mediator between person and machine, or person and Internet, and sometimes even between people," says Kirobo's designer. Video of the successful launch is here. (Read more Kirobo stories.)