Japan's space agency has sent a 3-D printed drone camera to make its presence felt forever on the orbiting International Space Station (ISS) taking photos and videos in zero gravity from the sky.
The small drone called Int-Ball created by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is the first of its kind to take images in zero gravity, under full control from Earth.
JAXA has designed the camera to make it move autonomously in space and record still and moving images under remote control by its ground controlling crew at Tsukuba Space Center near Tokyo. The ground control can check photos and videos in real time and send feedback to the crew on board the ISS.
The images sent from ISS in the past have made heroes out of astronauts in social media but realizing that the task is taking up more than 10 percent of their work load, JAXA, a partner nation in the ISS project, has hit upon the idea of a floating drone camera within the station that can help the frequently rotating crew on board.
Int-Ball or JEM Internal Ball Camera was part of the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo" delivered by the US Dragon spacecraft on June 4, 2017 and it has already made the crew happy and relieved them from most of their routine work. The drone is still undergoing tests and verification of its possible future applications in zero gravity, said JAXA researchers.
Int-Ball's real-time monitoring on board the ISS has made it possible for the ground control to instantly gauze the results of research and also keep a tab on movements inside the space station.
However, on the flip side of it, the crew of astronauts and researchers may feel the pressure of the 'Big Brother' watching them constantly. On its part, JAXA says that it is "striving to further improve Int-Ball's performance, enhance its functions, and promote the automation and autonomy of extra- and intra-vehicular experiments, while seeking to acquire the robotics technology available for future exploration missions."