Japanese students to compete in JAXA robot contest on ISS

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - An international robotics competition will be held in the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo on the International Space Station in 2020 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will hold an international robotics competition in the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo on the International Space Station in 2020, the Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
 This will be JAXA’s first attempt to host such an event in which students compete to demonstrate the accuracy of manipulating a robot in zero-gravity from the ground. Sources said it plans to invite university students mainly from Asian countries to take part in the project. JAXA aims to use robots in the future to reduce the burden on astronauts.
 The competition will use a 32-centimeter cube-shaped robot developed by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to assist astronauts on the ISS. Equipped with  cameras, a microphone, a robot arm and other parts, the robot can be remotely controlled from the ground to take photos.
 JAXA will invite college students from 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, the United States, Australia, Indonesia and South Korea to participate in the competition. These national teams will remotely control the cube robot by sending their own programs from JAXA’s Tsukuba Space Center, which is based in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture.
 The teams will compete over accuracy in manipulating the robot as it moves through a hoop while avoiding obstacles, or in taking photographs at designated locations within a certain period of time.
 NASA and other organizations hold robot competitions on the ISS mainly for junior high school and high school students in the United States. JAXA plans to hold an annual competition between 2020 and 2024, and is considering the use of Japanese robots.
 Astronauts usually conduct scientific experiments and take photographs by themselves on the ISS. To reduce the burden on astronauts by conducting experiments efficiently, countries are developing robots that can be used on the ISS. JAXA started test operations of a spherical camera robot on the ISS from 2017.
 “It is important to let robots do what they can and let astronauts concentrate on work that only humans can do,” said JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata.

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