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Japan eyes sending humanoid robot into orbit

A bot may watch over sleeping astronauts orbiting Earth if Japan's space agency JAXA moves ahead with its plans for 2013.

Will Japan's astro-droid look cute like Actroid? Tim Hornyak/CNET

NASA's tough-looking Robonaut 2 is slated to ride the Space Shuttle Discovery into orbit this month, and now Japan says it wants to shoot its own humanoid robot to the International Space Station too.

Japan's space agency JAXA says it may put a humanoid on the ISS in 2013 so it can watch over crew members while they sleep and monitor their health and stress levels.

Engineers at the University of Tokyo and staff at advertising giant Dentsu apparently are working on the space droid.

It would be intended for communication--sending pics to Earth via Twitter and boosting public interest in the ISS. NASA, on the other hand, wants humanoid robots to perform tasks on space walks in the future.

"We are thinking in terms of a very human-like robot that would have facial expressions and be able to converse with the astronauts," JAXA's Satoshi Sano was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

The agency wants a robot that can supply "comfort and companionship."

My bet is the bot will look something like Kokoro's Actroid fembots, like the maid version in the pic at right--not a Boba Fett-style machine like Robonaut.

Which you rather have in your sleep capsule?