WASHINGTON, April 14 (UPI) — NASA scientists say they will launch the first human-like robot into space later this year to become a permanent resident of the International Space Station.
Called “Robonaut 2,” or R2, the 300-pound unit was developed jointly by NASA and the General Motors Co. through a cooperative agreement to develop a robotic assistant that can work alongside humans, whether they are astronauts in space or workers at GM manufacturing plants on Earth.
NASA said R2 — consisting of a head and a torso with two arms and two hands — will be launched on space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission planned for September. Once aboard the station, engineers will monitor how the robot operates in weightlessness.
R2 will be confined to operations in the station’s Destiny laboratory, but NASA said future enhancements and modifications might allow it to move more freely around the station’s interior or outside the complex.
“This project exemplifies the promise that a future generation of robots can have both in space and on Earth, not as replacements for humans, but as companions that can carry out key supporting roles,” said John Olson, director of NASA’s Exploration Systems Integration Office. “The combined potential of humans and robots is a perfect example of the sum equaling more than the parts. It will allow us to go farther and achieve more than we can probably even imagine today.”
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