NASA prepares to launch Robonaut

Original author: New Scientist
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NASA is preparing to send its first humanoid robot into space. Robonaut first “moved” in September 1999, and after ten years of testing, the 140-pound R2 model will finally be launched to the International Space Station during the last Discovery space shuttle mission in September.

With the continuous maintenance work needed on the ISS, the idea is to give the crew an assistant who is not tired of performing mechanical tasks - initially inside the ship, and later beyond.

R2 combines the head and torso of a humanoid with very dexterous hands and palms. The R2 robot model was developed by NASA along with robots from General Motors. After binding to the ISS infrastructure, R2 can work with the same instruments that are used at the station by astronauts.

One of the mission's goals, according to NASA, is to see how Robonaut deals with space radiation and electromagnetic interference inside the space station.

The main task, however, will be to check the safety of the robot for working with people, because the instruments can easily fly away under microgravity conditions, says Chris Melhuish from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in Great Britain. “Robots must be physically and behaviorally safe,” he says.

“This means not only the control of the torque of limbs and instruments, but also the ability to recognize human gestures in order to successfully achieve the goals set for the robot. These are serious obstacles NASA must overcome. ”

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