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NASA buys cutting-edge Cornish robot

To be dubbed Oooh-Arrr-2-D2, no doubt

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Disgruntled Yank moans "Why not give the job to Disney" - feels force of West Country engineer's bitchslap

Jackson says that NASA came to Cornwall because someone from the space agency saw RoboThespian at a conference in the US and liked the look of it. The export triumph by Cornwall's cutting-edge robotic crowdpleaser industry has led to some sour grapes Stateside. Ex-NASA employee Keith Cowing, nowadays an inveterate critic of the huge, bloated agency, writes:

At a time when NASA is off developing a real (and much, much cooler) robot that will work in space (Robonaut) why not try and use something that resembles actual NASA robots to do education and public outreach? RoboThespian is manufactured overseas in the UK (Cornwall). Quite frankly, at a cost of between $54,000 to $119,000 wouldn't you think that KSC could find an American company that offers something that will fit the bill? Indeed, Disney World is an hour west of KSC in Orlando and they have lots of animatronic robots - indeed, it's their specialty.

Indeed, indeed. But Jackson is having none of it, administering a stinging bitchslap to the cross-pond carping curmudgeon. He tells the Reg:

This is a bit stupid as there is really no such thing as a US product or a UK product... Our robots use valves from Japan and Germany, motors from Switzerland and chips from the USA, Austria and China. The alloy is most likely from Australia and we have used software developers in Germany and France as well as the UK.

I guess the carping stems from some sense of entitlement to being the world's tech leader, but really it's just a simple misunderstanding of what it takes to integrate a modern hi-tech product - if you stripped the 'foreign' components out of the shuttle it wouldn't fly too well - not to mention the taking the I out of ISS.

From an industry 'protectionist' view point the best way to ensure your industry lags behind and is over-priced is to exclude the competition.

So there. And anyway, according to Jackson, "a 'bespoke' option would cost at least 10x the price... there are very few full size humanoid robots in the world and near none that you can buy off the shelf - except RoboThespian".

Some Americans at least might see this as a rare case of NASA actually giving the US taxpayers' wallets a rest and getting the job done at a low price, rather than its usual policy of buying from huge US corporations with entrenched politically protected workforces and paying prices to match. ®

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