Wednesday, February 2, 2011

NASA set to Launch Robonaut 2 In Space For the First Time.

According to a recent announcement a couple of days ago, NASA is set to launch Robonaut 2 this month on the 24th of February aboard space shuttle Discovery along with six astronauts, tools and spare supplies to the International Space Station making it the first ever humanoid robot to travel and work in Space. For now R2 (Robonaut 2) will only have to go with the upper part of its body as the legs aren't ready yet and undergoing testing.
Despite the fact R2 wont have legs it will still have a lot of stuff to learn on The ISS (International Space Station). R2 will start learning to do simple tasks on the space station it will be placed on a fixed pedestal (support) for lessons on a task board. The board will have switches, knobs, and connectors like the ones astronauts operate, and the crew will mock up chores for R2 to master. After the legs arrive the R2 will be able to move around inside the station, wiping handrails, vacuuming air filters, and doing other cleaning and trivial tasks for the crew. For Astronauts time is very precious in space, R2 will help the astronauts by letting them free from basic cleaning tasks making Astronauts able for better utilization of time in space.
Photographs of the legs haven't been reviled yet but its said that the legs have been designed with special toes that plug into the space station walls so R2 can learn to climb without using its hands. Over time R2 will become expert in climbing walls without using hands. This will make it capable in later stages for performing tasks like Extra-vehicular activity (EVA).
Robonaut using its cameras to see when it is time to release the envelope. You can see in the screen behind R2 that it can see Marty Linn's (GM) thumb as he grabs the envelope.
R2 has been designed to be quite modular and upgradeable, eg. A hand can be replaced with a new hand etc. Over time a new computer upgraded with software enhancements will be sent to the station. The crew will be able to exchange it with the one situated in R2's chest. R2's eyes comprise of two video cameras that give it three-dimensional vision for viewing an external worksite before the crew heads out to take care of a job. The major benefit from R2 is that it doesn't have to suit up and then depressurize in the airlock for hours before going outside. This will help tackle emergency situations. Moreover R2 can performs EVA for longer durations than humans. 

Now R2 is just a prototype its the first Robot of its kind. In the future such robots can be used for exploring other planets, surfaces on asteroids, to get a first hand look do decide a landing spot or even to setup work stations without humans having to risk their lives. May be R2 will be remembered as the father of humanoid space bots in the future.


No comments: