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Robonaut 2  (Source:
Robot will be sent into space forever on November 3

NASA and General Motors have developed a humanoid robot that will be the first of its kind to travel into space and never return.

The robot, Robonaut 2, or R2 for short, is a $2.5 million project that will be flying into space tomorrow afternoon on the space shuttle Discovery. R2 will be sent to the International Space Station where it will assist human astronauts in orbit and take over cleaning-related responsibilities at the station.

In 1997, NASA designed a similar humanoid robot named Robonaut 1, but the project ended in 2006 due to financial problems. General Motors soon joined the design team and together, they created an improved version of Robonaut 1, and unveiled R2 earlier this year. 

R2 consists of an upper torso, head, arms, hands and fingers. It is 3 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 330 pounds. R2 is made of aluminum and nickel-plated carbon fiber, and has padding on the torso, arms, hands and fingers for protection. The joints contain springs and 350 electrical sensors for grabbing and touching, and the "brain" is located in the stomach. Four visible light cameras sit behind the robots visor with an infrared camera inside the mouth for depth perception. R2 will carry a backpack that holds its power source, which can be plugged into the space station. The backpack is also capable of holding batteries in case R2 needs to leave the station.

NASA and GM hope to use R2 to assist astronauts in orbit. R2 is capable of withstanding extreme hot and cold conditions, assisting astronauts with tools and handling emergencies like fires or toxic leaks. At some point in the future, R2 could even "scout out" Mars, asteroids and other worlds. 

R2 will be traveling with six human crew mates accepting orders and going through a series of tests to see how well it operates and what can be done to improve it in the space station. In late 2011, NASA plans to send R2 legs so it can take on cleaning-related responsibilities. In 2012, torso and computer enhancements will be sent as well.

NASA officials noted that R2 will not replace human astronauts. R2 was made to help human astronauts, and will stay at the space station until NASA ceases to operate that particular station sometime after 2020. 

"While it might be just a single step for this robot, it's really a giant leap forward for tinmankind," said Rob Ambrose, acting chief of Johnson Space Center's automation, robotics and simulation division in Houston.

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By Ammohunt on 11/2/2010 2:47:53 PM , Rating: 5
Why humanoid shape? why not make it spider like or any other form that would be better suited for work in space. Is all imagination gone nowadays?

RE: weird
By CU on 11/2/2010 3:04:23 PM , Rating: 3
All the tools it will use on the space station are designed for humans, so having a humanoid shape does have some advantages. But, I agree to some extent. Why not have 4 arms? 360 degree vision?

RE: weird
By geddarkstorm on 11/2/2010 3:24:20 PM , Rating: 5
Four arms can get in the way of each other, limiting flexibility, balance, size and dexterity. The human form is actually a marvel of design, there's a reason we've developed all this technology and done so much versus any other animal on the planet. Specialized robots wouldn't have human form, I'm sure, but for pure versatility nothing beats our design.

RE: weird
By Ammohunt on 11/2/2010 3:44:29 PM , Rating: 2
R2D2 is the hero repair bot C3PO is the protocol droid....

RE: weird
By BruceLeet on 11/2/2010 3:51:09 PM , Rating: 4
Star Wars is a fictional story.


RE: weird
By Ammohunt on 11/2/2010 4:43:53 PM , Rating: 4
Oh thanks sorry about that!

Squid droids were sent to whipe out zion not humanoid robots.

RE: weird
By PrezWeezy on 11/2/2010 6:32:17 PM , Rating: 2

RE: weird
By Belard on 11/3/2010 11:20:10 AM , Rating: 2
No way!

Prove it!

RE: weird
By zippyzoo on 11/2/2010 6:00:59 PM , Rating: 2
Because we were intelligently designed.

RE: weird
By nuarbnellaffej on 11/2/2010 8:49:13 PM , Rating: 2
But then why are our fore arms composed of 2 small bones which break very easily, instead of one thicker bone?

RE: weird
By Alexvrb on 11/3/2010 12:07:33 AM , Rating: 2
Weight savings!

RE: weird
By nazomcg on 11/3/2010 7:56:13 AM , Rating: 4
I most certainly don't believe in intelligent design, but the two bones in the forearm allow for pronation and supination of the hand (turning from palm up to down and vice versa). This is extremely useful for increasing the mobility of the hand.

RE: weird
By JediJeb on 11/3/2010 2:51:37 PM , Rating: 3
Pretty darn amazing how random mutations over time produced such a marvel of engineering as the human form.

RE: weird
By JKflipflop98 on 11/11/2010 2:27:54 AM , Rating: 2
Some of them are random mutations, and some of them are selective breeding traits, and yet others are adaptations of necessity.

For example, we used to have tails. What is left of the human tail is 3 useless bones beneath the point where your load-bearing backbones connect to your pelvic bone. But, once we moved out of the trees and into the plains, tails became a liability. Those with longer tails are easier to spot - and a long tail is a handy place to grab your fleeing prey. Hence, those with longer tails died alot earlier and probably didn't have a chance to procreate. Eventually, we ended up tailless as you see today.

RE: weird
By bh192012 on 11/2/2010 6:44:16 PM , Rating: 3
I agree about hand shape, arm flexibility etc. However, why are they sending up legs later? Legs seem kinda limited in space. I could understand asthetically they're better. However, I think another set of arms/hands to walk on would work better. For example while outside the station, holding onto rails etc. Then it could hold onto a rail with 1 foot/hand, hold wire 1 with the other foot/hand, wire 2 with the left hand, and use the right hand to splice the wires. (All while letting the tool bag float off into space of course.)

RE: weird
By CU on 11/3/2010 8:22:10 AM , Rating: 2
There is no humanoid animal with 4 arms to compare us with. You do not know that 2 is the perfect number to have.

RE: weird
By JKflipflop98 on 11/11/2010 2:31:18 AM , Rating: 2
We DO know because that is the trait nature has specified for almost all living animals. 2 forelegs (or arms), 2 rear legs, 2 eyes that see in the visible light spectrum, and 2 auditory inputs.

RE: weird
By Shatbot on 11/3/2010 3:03:23 AM , Rating: 2
I thought it was because you can put on a sensor suit and control it in "virtual" reality from the ground. If you put the sensor helmet on you can see what it sees etc.

How else will you silently assimilate into the secretive Robonaught colony that's been in battle with the New World Order government over the helium on the moon?

RE: weird
By randomly on 11/2/2010 6:45:48 PM , Rating: 3
It's humanoid shaped because it's operated remotely through a telepresence link by a human operator. It's able to use human tools, has human reach, fits in human spaces. The humanoid form allows much more intuitive control by the human operator.
The operator sees what the robot sees, through force feedback in the controls the operator also feels what the robot feels.

Utilizing Telepresence robotics you get the best of both worlds. All the benefits of a robot but with a human brain controlling it in real time and making judgements and decisions.
With the real time video link and force feedback controls the operator actually feels as if he is the robot doing the work. This allows the system to be vastly more efficient and flexible than an autonomous robot.

Because of the problems in space of radiation, mass limits to landing vehicles, not to mention return vehicles for bodies with significant gravity (moon, mars, etc.) it's much more efficient to just get the astronauts close to the target (within a light second) and then send out telepresence robotic vehicles controlled by the astronauts. It drastically reduces total mission mass and puts missions that once were so expensive to be economically unfeasible into the realm of the possible.

Better get used to the idea because if you want a human space program this approach is the closest you can get to something we can actually afford.

Personally I'm looking forward to a human mission to Phobos with telepresence exploration of Mars. With half a dozen or more telepresence robots in different locations and small sample return vehicles you can do a lot more in a single mission for a lot less money than trying to land humans in one spot and getting them back again.

Should make for awesome videos too.

RE: weird
By Ammohunt on 11/3/2010 2:31:35 PM , Rating: 2
too bad telepresence is useless at those distances limited by the speed of light.

RE: weird
By JediJeb on 11/3/2010 2:54:27 PM , Rating: 2
Yea, can you imagine trying to control the robot with up to minutes of delay in what you do versus the return information on the results. If you were wearing a suit to control it, that would be very tiring indeed.

RE: weird
By randomly on 11/4/2010 9:00:17 AM , Rating: 2
That's why you send your astronauts to the bottom of a crater on Phobos where they can take advantage of the radiation shielding from the regolith. Then land your telepresence robots at various places of interest on Mars along with small sample return vehicles that can be filled with samples by the robots and then launched back into Mars orbit to be recovered and analyzed by the astronauts. Communications delay from Phobos to Mars is only tens of milliseconds.
You avoid the enormous difficulty of landing humans into Mars's deep gravity well and getting them back out again. An entire mission to Phobos and back to Earth only requires a similar delta-V to landing on the moon.

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