Meet NASA's Newest Crew Member: Astrobee


It's a friendly little cube that will fly around the International Space Station.

NASA has frequently used robotics, and the space agency is currently preparing to send one adorable robot to the International Space Station to help the astronauts onboard.

Astrobee is shaped like a cube and measures 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot. While Astrobee is small, it can take care of a lot.

Researchers have designed the little bot to do routine tasks like monitor environmental conditions like air quality aboard the station and keep track of the tens of thousands of tools floating around the ISS using its RFID scanner. Astrobee can also give flight control in Houston an extra set of eyes and ears on the ISS.

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"We're not developing a robot to perform robotic missions; we want a robot that can help crews on their human exploration," said Chris Provencher, Astrobee project manager at NASA Ames Research Center. "The most limiting resource is crew time and so the idea is to take over some of the tasks that the crew do to let them focus on science."

Once it is onboard the space station, Astrobee will navigate the microgravity environment using blasts of air to move around. It will also be equipped with a robotic arm to hold on to the wall and stay in one place. While Astrobee is capable of working fully autonomously, it will start under remote control from Houston.

Astrobee will launch sometime early next year. For now, the little bot is still undergoing testing on Earth.