NASA: Humanoid robot moves onto space station

Astronauts use robotic arm to permanently attach a fully loaded module to the station

Robotic history was made today.

Using a robotic arm, astronauts brought a humanoid robot aboard the International Space Station. While the space station has used various robotic arms attached to the outside of the orbiter, this is the first humanoid robot that will "live" and work inside with the astronauts.

Dubbed Robonaut 2, or R2, the robot was stowed inside the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module, a pressurized container used on shuttle missions to haul cargo to the space station and refuse back to Earth. However, with the shuttle fleet close to retiring, this time the module will become a permanent fixture on the space station, giving astronauts living there more storage room.

Astronauts used one of the space station's robotic arms to hoist the fully loaded 28,353 pound module out of the shuttle and attach it to the space station.

On this trip aboard space shuttle Discovery, the module was loaded with supplies, experiments, equipment and Robonaut 2.

NASA reported Tuesday that at 10:05 a.m. EST, the module was anchored in place on the underside of the space station's Unity node.

This evening the crew will enter the module and begin the work of unloading it.

The Discovery crew, which launched into space Thursday, made its first of two spacewalks on Monday. The second spacewalk is set for Wednesday.

This is Discovery's last trip into space. The space shuttle made more than 5,000 trips around the Earth, logging more than 150 million miles and carrying more than 180 astronauts. It also was the shuttle that returned the U.S. to space flight after the Challenger and Columbia accidents.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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