Feeds

'R2' robot to join space station crew, says NASA

Not a proper R2 unit though - can't do EVA

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

NASA has announced that once again life is to imitate art, as the human race's principal manned spacecraft - the International Space Station (ISS) - is soon to gain a robot crewmember known as "R2".

The R2 robot from NASA and GM. Credit: NASA

Probably doesn't have a message from an imperilled princess or anything.

Rather than a small ambulatory bleeping dustbin riding in a socket outside the station, however, the droid - also known at NASA and partner developer GM as "Robonaut 2" - will be resident inside the station's "Destiny" lab module. According to NASA the machine "does not have adequate protection needed to exist outside the space station in the extreme temperatures of space".

This is something of a disappointment as one of the principal roles foreseen for the robot was Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) or spacewalking, a complex and time-consuming task for human astronauts. The lengthy periods spent suiting up and unsuiting fleshy operatives would of course be unnecessary in the case of the "Dextre" robot already available for use with the station's manipulator arm, or future space-proofed R2s.

For now, however, the human-style droid torso unit will remain confined to the station interior, having been flown up aboard space shuttle Discovery during the STS-133 mission scheduled for September.

According to NASA:

Testing the robot inside the station will provide an important intermediate environment. R2 will be tested in microgravity and subjected to the station's radiation and electromagnetic interference environments. The interior operations will provide performance data about how a robot may work side-by-side with astronauts. As development activities progress on the ground, station crews may be provided hardware and software to update R2 to enable it to do new tasks.

Global motor mammoth GM, partnered with NASA on the R2, considers the effort well worthwhile.

"Partnerships between organizations such as GM and NASA help ensure space exploration, road travel and manufacturing can become even safer in the future," enthused GM R&D bigwig Alan Taub.

NASA evidently considers the R2 important, given that room has been found for the on-the-face-of-it not particularly useful machine aboard one of the few remaining Shuttle flights. Meanwhile other and potentially rather more significant technologies, (albeit like the R2 still not fully developed) have no flight slot and must hope that the new wave of privately-developed lifters arrive as promised. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?