Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Development began is 1997, but R2 – as he is called, is so much more than he was back then. Before him though there was Robonaut 1, although R1 never made the trip to space. Testing R1 on dexterity and being very successful, NASA was soon approached by GM who had been working on a similar project. In 2007 GM & NASA pooled resources and worked on R1’s next generation.

Move ahead to 2010 and the unveiling of R2. R2 took technology and dexterity to the next level and beyond. While he already showed tremendous potential, it was quickly understood that space was to be his next stop. In February 2011, R2 consisted at the time of a torso that sat attached to a pedestal. His main advantage? That he could take over or assist in repetitive tasks such as changing an air filter. But times they are a changing! Although at the moment he is an inside bot, future modifications plan on changing that.

What was once future modifications have already helped R2 exchange his pedestal for a pair of legs. Sent up to the ISS in the most recent cargo delivery, were R2’s legs. His tasks have been expanded to include cleaning the ISS. An upleasant task sure, but he’s not complaining. Also, it is the first step of many as it requires the multi-tasking that his eventually EVA duties will require. Handing tools while moving about the ISS. Of course there will be modifications before EVAs can become a reality, but testing as they go, NASA will speed up the time frame when he has all the protection he needs! And he doesn’t require non-stop supervision. R2 is designed to be given a task and not to need constant controls in order to finish it. NASA understanding the time-delays could be problematic in tasks down the line having put in place R2’s ability to carry out his duties autonomously with only periodic status checks.

While adequate protection for outside the spacestation is not yet present, it is in R2’s future. Soon R2 will be providing services side-by-side with our astronauts. Perhaps in his future, exploration where astronauts dare not go! Planetary visits sans humans. No concerns of food or sleep? Entire colonies of Robonauts? This could be interesting; it is already way cool!

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