- "Int-Ball" will make astronauts' work hours more efficient
- The drone facilitates more real-time communication with crew on Earth
Functionally, the JEM Internal Ball, or "Int-Ball" for short, will optimize communication between astronauts in space and scientists on Earth.
Aesthetically, it is the cutest little orb since Star Wars' BB-8 droid.
Int-Ball arrived in space at "Kibo," which is the Japanese Experiment Module on the International Space Station, on June 4 this year. The photos were disclosed by JAXA on July 14.
These will display in real-time to researchers on Earth at the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center, from where scientists on the ground can themselves control Int-Ball and its camera.
JAXA says its astronauts currently spend 10% of their working hours photographing their findings. There's also a huge lag between the astronauts capturing the images and sending them to the crew on Earth.
One purpose of Int-Ball, the agency explains
, is to wipe out the chore of recording, as well as the delay in sending. Not only does this maximize the astronauts' work hours, but it also allows the Earth-based crew to monitor and aid the space crew from similar vantage points in real-time.
Int-Ball is a product of 3D printing and modern drone technology.
For now, Int-Ball functions as a revolutionary link between crew on-ground and in space.
JAXA promises plans to "enhance its functions, and promote the automation and autonomy of extra- and intra-vehicular experiments," to see how such technology can be of further use in future missions.