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NASA: Humanoid robot wakes up on space station

It's alive! After six months onboard the orbiter, astronauts power up Robonaut 2 (See video below)

August 23, 2011 02:39 PM ET
Robonaut 2
The Robonaut 2 (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Computerworld - The humanoid robot on board the International Space Station was brought to life on Monday.

The robot, dubbed Robonaut 2 or R2, was fired up almost six months after being brought up to the space station by the crew of the space shuttle Discovery on its last mission before retirement. Space station engineers Satoshi Furukawa and Mike Fossum assembled the robot and powered it up for the first time.

The astronauts, according to NASA, did not give Robonaut 2 a command to move but they did run a test of its electronics, which focused on the thermal response sensors in its joints.

The space agency did not say when the robot will be on the move inside the station. After nearly a year of tests to see how the robot responds on the space station and how its human counterparts react to it, Robonaut 2 is expected to perform tasks such as cleaning and basic maintenance inside the station, as well as to help astronauts outside on spacewalks.

The 300-pound robot has been in the works for about 11 years. R2 was built with a total of 38 PowerPC processors, including 36 embedded chips, which control its joints. Each of the embedded processors communicates with the main chip in the robot.

At first, the robot will be connected to a pedestal on the space station and will only be able to work in place. By the end of the year, NASA hopes to ship one or two leglike appendages to be attached to Robonaut 2, giving it more mobility around the station.

NASA plans to further test robot with further mobility on Sept. 1

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

Read more about Emerging Technologies in Computerworld's Emerging Technologies Topic Center.



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