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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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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.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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