In the 2008 film WALL-E, the main character is a robot left alone on a future Earth when he gets a mysterious visitor. EVE.
Though EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) has a bit of a temper (watch out for her ion cannon!), for WALL-E it's love at first sight. And now, thanks to JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency), we understand exactly how he felt.
That's because we've just met the Int-Ball.
Int-Ball, or JEM Internal Ball Camera, is an autonomous (or self-controlling) drone. It kind of looks like EVE's head, right? The 3D-printed wonder measures 15 cm (6 in.) across—a little smaller than a volleyball—and weighs 1 kg (2.2 lbs.). It is powered by 12 tiny fans set inside its spheroid body. Thanks to the weightlessness of space, it needs very little power to move around!
The camera drone was delivered last month to the ISS (International Space Station) on board a SpaceX Dragon rocket. It has since been unpacked by the crew and everything seems to be running super smoothly. How do we know?
Because we've seen the footage! Have a look for yourself right here.
The video (mostly in Japanese) shows the SpaceX rocket carrying Int-Ball being launched into space. Crew on the ISS unpack the drone, and then its time for Int-Ball to start "talking" to JAXA Mission Control. At about 1:16, an inset camera view appears showing what the Int-Ball is seeing.
More than just a cutesy face
While you don't have to be a robot to fall in love with Int-Ball, this drone isn't just there to be a best buddy. It has work to do!
Astronauts spend a significant part of their time on the ISS taking turns filming what other crew members are doing. The hope is that drones like Int-Ball will free up people's valuable "space" to perform other tasks. This is also an important test of just how well a drone can handle microgravity environments. Judging by the video, aside from a few bumps here and there, Int-Ball is doing alright.
Welcome to your new home, little drone. We're sure the astronauts are happy to get a new friend!