The Space Station Is Getting Its Own Robot Butler
Robonaut 2 will handle inconvenient or dangerous tasks for astronauts; it will also debut the open-source Robot Operating System in orbit.
On Sunday, as part of a resupply mission to the International Space Station, a SpaceX rocket will launch while carrying in tow a set of programmed legs for Robonaut 2 (R2), a humanoid torso that is already on board the ISS. Once the legs and torso are united, R2 will be the first functional, off-world humanoid robot.
R2's assembly will also mark the orbital debut of the open-source Robot Operating System, which powers more than 40 different robot models here on Earth.It’s no surprise that scientists are excited to get humanoid robots functioning in space. Once assembled, R2 will be able to complete tasks that are dangerous or simply inconvenient for people. Until this point, only non-humanoid robots, like the Mars rover, have been successfully implemented in space.Developed jointly by NASA and General Motors, R2 has been in production on Earth for several years. The $2.5 million R2 torso arrived at the space station in 2011 via the last flight of the space shuttle Discovery.Sometimes described as a “robot butler for astronauts,” R2 will be able to take up some of astronauts’ space station chores once it gets its legs....MORE