Robonaut 2 Makes Space History With Firm Handshake!

By Meera Dolasia on February 20, 2012

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On February 15th, just over a year after it arrived at the International Space Station, Robonaut 2 (R2) the world's first humanoid robot made history, by firmly shaking the hand of Station Commander, Dan Burbank.

While it may not seem like a big deal, it was a giant step forward in testing the robot's dexterity and strength because all of R2's tests have been conducted on Earth. Therefore, the arm had been programmed such that it took into account the full force of gravity, which meant the robot needed to put in more effort to lift it. However, since there is no gravity in Space, the scientists that control the robot from Earth had to reprogram it, so that it's 'light' touch doesn't result in punching a hole on the side of the Space Station.

Besides the impressive handshake, R2 also tweeted to his fans by spelling out the words 'Hello World' in American sign language. These two actions were the culmination of a series of tests that R2 has been put through, since Tuesday, February 14th.

Following that it was powered down and placed back into storage, until its next task - Which will be to test the suite of cameras that act as its eyes. These are programmed such that they will provide both the astronauts and NASA scientists on the ground with a clear view of what the humanoid robot is working on. If the 'eye' test is successful, then R2 will begin practicing for the real tasks it will eventually be assigned to, using mimic controls that have been sent to space.

R2 is NASA's first trainee astronaut robot. Once it proves completely reliable, it will begin its practical training by becoming the official cleaner for the International Space Station - for believe it or not, even astronauts have to clean up every week! His duties will include wiping handrails, vacuuming the air filters and cleaning up wherever needed.

Though it may seem like a cruel task to assign to someone who cannot protest, astronauts say its part of the training to get it ready for the big assignment. That's because in order for R2 to be able to work outside the Space station, it will have to learn to climb without using its hands, a skill it will be practicing, whilst cleaning.

Since R2 does not have pockets to store the cleaning supplies, it will tuck its toes into the station walls so that it can keep its hands free to hold the cleaning supplies. Once it masters this without falling off, it will be ready for more exciting tasks.

Astronauts envision sending R2 out for emergency missions, since it can leave immediately, unlike its human counterparts, who have to depressurize and suit up. Also, since they can 'see' through him thanks to the two video cameras that are fitted into his eye sockets, they can quickly determine what the problem is and prepare to deal with it.

R2 will also be able to spend more time outside than humans can, and therefore be able to complete repairs and other tasks faster. To make the robot more independent, scientists are working on a battery that will be fitted inside its chest, so that the robot doesn't have to be plugged in to the Space Station all the time.

And, if it really becomes good, the possibilities for this humanoid robot are endless - It could be sent to scout out a new planet or asteroid and even, be fitted with a jetpack so that it can zoom around Space!

Resource:science.nasa.gov

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167 Comments
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  • Patrice4/22/2012
    Before the R2 can fly it has to go through some steps like get a light touch. The R2 also needs to go through a series of testsuch and sighning in Amarican sigh language. R2 also has to be tested for his strengh. Lastly the R2 musttry on his suit with cameras. Then the R2 is ready for takeoff.
    • josh s4/19/2012
      I think that it is a wayste of time to build a robot to shake hands. I think that this is useless to have this robot in our world. We could have made a robot to stop pollution. I wish this robot will turn into more usefull science like curing diseses like cancer. Those scientist are happy and bla but it is all trash!
      • PaigeL4/19/2012
        He can speak in american sign language, COOLIO
        • Paige4/19/2012
          This is the coolest thing i've ever seen and since i have been learning about robots and robonaut i wish i was dan
          • $era G.4/7/2012
            Before the R2 can fly with a jetpack, it needs a light touch so it doesn't accidentally punch a hole in the space station wall. It also needs to take a series of tests; such as, signing "Hello World" in American sign language. Also it has to test a suit that has cameras in it so its eyes act like cameras. R2 will also be tested for his strength. If it passes, then R2 will be ready to take off with the jetpack.
            • joel
              Mr. Munoz4/4/2012
              Fr- that robot flies because it has something to go to outer space. He has something in his hands so he can fix anything. I like that robot because it can save people, when he sees somebody that is about to fall, he will save them.
              • Omar Abarc4/4/2012
                why Nasa need r2
                • Antonio4/4/2012
                  Before it can be flying around with a jet pack and roaming around space it has to do chores. It has to do chores like sweeping and others. It also has to train on the missions so that it will be easy when he does the real mission in outer space.
                  • Joe $.4/3/2012
                    First the R2 needs to have his (Light) touch, so he does not punch a hole in the wall. Next, the scientists work on the strength of the R2. They try to get a lot of strength in the arms.If all is successful with that he will began the practice for the big task.
                    • D1@nT3 c.4/2/2012
                      First you need to not make R2 dosen't puch a hole in the wall. the you need to program it to say english wordds. then you need to fouces his eyes.Then you need to get see through vido in his eyes.Then you practice shacking hands with him.

                      Vocabulary

                      culminationdepressurizedexterityreprogram

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