Put some one in a very stressful situation - say in front a major network television camera - and ask them something they didn't expect or prepare for. You'll either end up with a funny blooper, or their true feelings - sometimes both. That's pretty much what happened a few weeks ago when we were interviewed for an NHK television program on robotics. The host suddenly asked two thought provoking questions: "When did you first get attracted to robots?" and then "Did you want to be a robot designer?"
With zero time to think about it, our answers were simple pretty simple and straight forward: Our fascination with robots started around age 8 by watching science fiction movies and reading novels. No, we didn't want to be involved with robot building at all - our heart was set on becoming an astronaut and going to the moon!
Well, we didn't qualify for any of the NASA space programs, and the odds of us making to the moon, or even physically into space are getting thinner and thinner. But, in an indirect way and with a lot of help from robots, it looks like we'll be able to fulfill our childhood dreams anyway. This Wednesday NASA launched two almost identical robot spacecraft that will send back high definition 3D images of the sun and its solar flares. Someone at NASA has a good sense of humor and love of puns, because the project was appropriately named "Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatories" or STEREO for short. Earlier this week the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit passed the 1,000 day milestone sending back high definition true color, artificial color, and 3D images for all of us to experience. There are other similar projects in the works. And, if the robot community here in Japan has their way, sometime around late 2010 we'll have the first ROBO-ONE In The Space competition. Needless to say, we'll do everything we can to help them make it a reality.
The original mission of the Starship Enterprise was "To boldly go where no man has gone before." With the help of robots, all of us, no matter what age, physical ability, gender, or nationality, can participate in the adventure.