NASA's first trainee robot astronaut is all ready to head to Space when Space Shuttle Discovery launches off for its final mission on February 24th - However, its legs are not! No problem, say the scientists, for there is plenty to do even without them - The legs will just have to follow when they are ready!
Robonaut affectionately called R2, the first humanoid robot to ever travel and hopefully stay in Space, is being sent with very high expectations. NASA scientists believe that it will become the crew member's right hand 'it' - and be responsible for one of the most exciting astronaut duty - Extravehicular Activity, A.K.A Space Walk.
However, before it can be elevated into a full-fledged astronaut, R2 will have to prove itself by doing some mundane tasks. While its legs are still being perfected, it will be set up on a board that resembles the one astronauts use, complete with switches, knobs and connectors, where it will learn how to control and manipulate them.
Once his legs arrive, he will be promoted to the official cleaner of 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.
While 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 more R2 independent, the scientists are working on a battery that will be fitted inside its chest, so that it doesn't have to be plugged in all the time.
And, if it really becomes good, scientists see endless exciting opportunities - like being the first one to scout out a new planet or asteroid or even, being fitted with a jetpack so that it can zoom around Space! But of course, it all comes down to its cleaning skills!
However, before, R2 gets lost in Space, it will receive its ten minutes of fame at this Sunday's Super Bowl Pregame show, where it will be quizzed by Fox Television's sports analyst, Howie Long - So, be sure to tune in and check it out.