NASA and General
Motors have developed a
humanoid robot that will be the first of its kind to travel
into space and never return.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
it might be just a single step for this robot, it's really a
forward for tinmankind," said Rob Ambrose, acting chief of
Johnson Space Center's automation, robotics and simulation division