NASA plans on solving the aging-astronaut problem by partnering with GM to create the Robonaut 2 (or R2), a new “permanent resident of the International Space Station”.
R2 is the result of a co-op between NASA and GM to create a robotic assistant for human workers (that looks like Cobra Commander). Weighing in at 300 pounds, R2 is going into space for some zero-gravity operation and electromagnetic/radioactive interference testing within the station…BUT HE WON’T BE ALONE.
There’s actually another robot named Dextre already up there, consisting of two arms that “perform tasks that normally require spacewalking”; he lives outside and was built by the Canadian Space Agency, eh.
John Olson, director of NASA’s Exploration Systems Integration Office, says, “The use of R2 on the space station is just the beginning of a quickening pace between human and robotic exploration of space. The partnership of humans and robots will be critical to opening up the solar system and will allow us to go farther and achieve more than we can probably even imagine today.”
Unlike Dextre, R2 is more in line with Honda’s Asimo without legs. Being humanoid, R2 has some distinct advantages: the ability to do human jobs without human risks (but don’t tell him that). R2 will also be testing how well human astronauts can integrate with robonauts.
As for how this applies to the road, GM’s VP of Global R&D Alan Taub explains: “The work done by GM and NASA engineers also will help us validate manufacturing [vision, motion and sensor technologies] that will improve the health and safety of our GM team members at our manufacturing plants throughout the world.”
If all goes according to plan, R2 will be heading to the ISS in September aboard the Discovery.
By Phil Alex