Robots in Space: Robonaut 2 Blasts Off to the International Space Station

by Socrates on February 25, 2011

Yesterday afternoon at 4:53 pm EST space shuttle Discovery blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Safely packed in the cargo bay aboard mission STS-133 was a new kind of a crew member - the Robonaut 2.

STS133 Crew and Robonaut 2

The Robonaut 2 is the second generation of a humanoid robot developed by NASA, GM and DARPA for space exploration. It is modular in nature, which allows for new parts and upgrades to be shipped and attached at a later point, and is intended to participate and assist in both manned and unmanned space missions, via telepresence and various levels of robotic autonomy for control.

The robot is very dexterous and, while not all human range of motion and sensitivity has been duplicated, its hand has impressive 12 degrees of freedom of movement as well as 2 degrees of wrist motion.

There are over 350 sensors and 38 processors in the Robonaut 2. It has touch sensors at the tips of its fingers and is capable of moving its arms up to 2 m/s and has a 40 lb. payload capacity. Its hands have a grasping force of roughly 5 lbs. per finger.

For more information check out these cool videos from NASA:

Robonaut 2 STS-133 NASA Trailer

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R2 Humanoid Robot

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Getting Packed for Space Flight

As I mentioned in my original article about the Robonaut 2, there is hardly any doubt that robots can be used for cheaper, faster, safer and arguably more efficient space exploration than humans can. In the next several decades both fighter-jet and space-ship pilots alike, are probably going to be gradually replaced by the ever-creeping pace of technology in the form of computers and robots.

Ultimately, all kinds of human operators (or drivers) will be replaced by robotic ones. The real question, however, is:

What happens to us when machines are better at everything?

Video Update:

First Humanoid Robot to Join ISS Residents

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Robonaut 2 gets uboxed

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