image credit: NASA
The International Space Station’s only robotic inhabitant was awaiting a critical delivery of some new, shiny legs on Monday. The new limbs were to be sent up on Monday’s re-scheduled Space X cargo launch. However, the launch was unfortunately postponed only 2 hours before its scheduled 4.58 p.m EDT launch time.
The new legs would provide Robonaut, or R2, with much greater mobility to assist it in the many regular and repetitive tasks it completes. The goal is to free up time that the astronauts spend completing these smaller tasks, so that they can spend more time doing more critical, scientific research work.
image credit: NASA
Once attached to the torso of R2, the robot will boast a leg span of 9 feet, and will have the ability to grip and utilise the space stations handrails and sockets. These ‘end effectors’ will become incredibly useful in the near future, where the aim is to have Robonaut performing tasks outside of the Station. This will reduce the risks to human astronauts in the harsh and volatile space conditions as the need for EVA’s (extravehicular activities) and space walks will be reduced.
The legs have 7 joints and each end effector has a vision system which may eventually be used to verify and automate each limb’s approach and grasp on objects.
The leg-less Robonaut has proven useful since its launch in 2011. R2 has demonstrated the ability to complete tasks including pressing buttons, flipping switches, turning knobs and wiping down handrails. The robot was even tele-operated by Astronaut Tom Marshburn to catch a free-floating object inside the space station, hinting at further possibilities of utilising the robot’s growing capabilities.
If you could have control of Robonaut, what would you make it do? What additions to the robot do you think could be useful for the future? Let us know via twitter and facebook!