Robonaut 2 Goes To Space - With Or Without His Legs
"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.
Ambrose was referring to Robonaut 2, aka R2, who may not have his legs or torso yet, but he is going into space this week on the final flight of the space shuttle Discovery.
R2 will essentially be the clean-up crew for the Space Station, and that's the first step up the ladder towards become a full-fledged astronaut. He is the first robot that is preprogrammed to perform duties on the Space Ship, but until his legs and torso arrive, sometime early next year, he won't be able to do many of the tasks.
R2 is far more technologically advanced than his elder brother, R1. He moves four times faster, is more compact, more dexterous, and has a greater range of sensing (including tactile skin). His advanced technology includes overlapping dual arms, extended finger and thumb travel, ultra high speed joint controllers, extreme neck travel, and an ultra high speed camera system with lenses in his eyes.
Discovery's astronaut-physician, Michael Barratt, would have loved to pawn off toilet cleaning while living at the space station last year. As appealing as Robonaut is, he cautions "it will be a long time" before the robot can do a job as quickly and efficiently as a space station human.
This video about R2's preparation for flight is a few months old, but I think it will really get you into this event!
R2 is a project of NASA and General Motors.