Might sound somewhat sexist, but one needs to check himself not to call the android space robot “him” when referring to ─ er, “him”. For, devoid of flying hair and other feminine attributes, NASA’s space robot, or Robonaut 2 (R2), working in the International Space Station (ISS) since 2011, definitely looks as a “he” ─ well, kind of…
Until now, R2 has been assigned simple, and repeating tasks such as checking the velocity of the air flow or cleaning the handrails and occasionally tele-operated by the crew or ground controllers for more complex tasks.
The multi -jointed legs (with reversible knees) are designed to give R2 enough mobility to allow it to climb walls or carry out extra-vehicular activities such as repairs, assembly or dismantling of parts. The least human-looking part of the experimental android is what is meant to pass as “feet” at the ends of hose-like legs. These “effectors” as they are called, are actually superior to human feet, which are not of much use in the microgravity environment of the space station, anyway. The effectors were designed to “grasp” handholds fitted everywhere to help the crew navigate across the station, or to fit into sockets.
Future R2s ─or threes or fours─ are envisaged to help expand space exploration by “manning” spacecraft to distant asteroids or work in other hostile environments, and eventually help out with the exploration of Mars.
- 1. “Robonaut 2 Getting His Space Legs”, http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/robonaut.html#.U1EuSaIa18E