a robotic camera was released on December 3 - 40 feet above space shuttle Columbia - by a spacewalking us astronaut, Winston Scott. The camera - about the size of a beach ball - is the first test of its kind. The us $3 million free-flying camera is padded for protection and equipped with tiny nitrogen thrusters and a floodlight. "I think we have got a real winner here," said pilot Steven Lindsey reporting from the cockpit. The debut of us space agency nasa's robotic camera, known as Aercam Sprint, was a warm-up for the soon-to-be-built international space station. Engineers believe that a better equipped and a more self-sufficient model could inspect the outer fringes of the station and thereby reduce the amount of spacewalks needed.
"Having this kind of floating eyeball in our hip pocket available when we need it for the space station is going to be really useful over the next few years," says Gregory Harbaugh, acting manager of nasa's space walks project.
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