NASA Human-like Robot To Join Space Station Crew

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NASA intends to launch a human-like robot to the international space station later this year to take up permanent residency aboard the orbiting lab, the U.S. space agency announced April 14.

Called Robonaut 2, or R2 for short, the 135-kilogram robot was jointly developed by NASA and General Motors and consists of a head and torso with two arms. NASA plans to launch R2 to the space station aboard Space Shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission planned for September. Once the robot is onboard the station, engineers will monitor how it operates in weightlessness.

Although R2 will be confined to operations inside the station’s Destiny laboratory module, NASA said in a press release the robot eventually could be enhanced to allow it to move more freely around the station’s interior and possibly one day be modified to operate outside the station.

NASA said R2 is undergoing extensive testing — including vibration, vacuum and radiation testing — in preparation for its flight.

“The use of R2 on the space station is just the beginning of a quickening pace between human and robotic exploration of space,” John Olson, director of NASA’s Exploration Systems Integration Office, said in the press release. “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.”