Only 3 1/2 months late, the first humanoid robot has finally made it into space, on the last flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery.
The mission, STS-133, was supposed to launch, along with Robonaut 2, on Nov. 1 of last year. However, the last flight of Discovery was delayed for numerous reasons, including a hydrogen leak, which was followed by the discovery of cracks in some of the insulating foam as well as some support rods on the fuel tank.
Robonaut 2, known as R2 for short, is a 40-inch tall robot developed in partnership with General Motors, at a cost of about $2.5 million per robot. It has a humanoid look, at least from the torso up, and aspires to one day be an active member of the ISS crew.
For the next year or so, it is going to be pretty bored. Most of that time will be spent doing simple tasks such as turning knobs, plugging things in, and manipulating objects. Part of the testing will be to ensure R2 works well in zero-gravity.
Eventually, R2 will get legs or some type of locomotive lower body (R2D2, anyone?). It could at first be used to simple tasks such as vacuuming the station's quarters, eventually being reprogrammed for more complex tasks such as maintenance or repairs. It could even assist astronauts on space walks; NASA is not expecting a HAL 9000 moment.
Robonaut 2 has been created up for months, awaiting Discovery's launch. It will continue to stay in its create until space shuttle and ISS personnel complete more-pressing tasks. Scott Higginbotham, payload manager for the mission joked:
"As far as we know we have not heard any knocking sounds or muffled cries of 'Are we there yet?'
You can watch a couple of videos on Robonaut 2 below.