Robonaut 2: Astronaut sidekick
Since the birth of science fiction movies, we have seen robots that can work side by side with human beings, which is the case of R2D2 and C3P0, from “Star Wars”. Also in Hanna Barbera’s cartoons “The Jetsons”, we have seen many robots that can serve the human being in several simple and other more complex tasks. This kind of machines represent cooperative robots.
Meet Robonaut 2 (R2), the first humanoid cooperation robot to be used in space. It is intended to be on board of International space station, in February 2011. This robot represents an enhanced version of its predecessor, Robonaut 1, bringing higher performance and functionalities. Robonaut 2 is a project with the collaboration of NASA and General Motors and its major goal in its first mission is to help the astronauts in simple tasks. These include organizing and providing materials needed in the missions and using a wide set of tools. In the midterm, the intention of the Robonaut project is to be used in tasks that are dangerous and difficult for human beings to perform, namely going outside into the vacuum of space.
The appearance of Robonaut 2 already has some resemblance with the human being (at least the upper body), but still only has an upper body with no legs and the idea for now is to have it attached to wheels or a fixed pedestal. Later phases of the project include a biped Robonaut and the prospect of exploring the Moon and Mars surface.
Robonaut seems to be the beginning of the cooperation between robots and humans, bringing to real life applications what we’ve only seen in technology fairs and movies.