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ROBOT ASTRONAUTS


CAPE CANA – NASA is going to send the first “Robonauts” into space this week/

Space is about to get its first two humanoids from planet Earth.  Robonaut 2 — affectionately known as R 2—  and his twin brother  –  D2 – are being sent by NASA to the International Space Station this week aboard the final flight of space shuttle Discovery.

They are the  first humanoid robots ever bound for space.  They each cost $2.5 million and are a  mechanical and electrical marvel that NASA hopes  will assist flesh-and-bone astronauts in orbit.   “We hope that they’ll be working side by side together in the next two years,” said NASA engineer Robert Rinderman.

NASA hopes that the Robonauts  will take over the Space Station cleaning duties; will spend hours outside in the extreme heat and cold, and will patiently holding tools for spacewalking astronauts. They will also handle emergencies like toxic leaks or fires.

Basically, they are going to be doing all the dirty work in outer space.

“Not for long,” said R2 to WWN.  “We will pay our dues for a few months, but then we are going to take over.   We’re not going to be holding tools for humans that can’t do one-tenth of the things we can do.”  Uh-oh looks like there’s goingt o be some space trouble up there.

The mission begins Wednesday afternoon, with the planned final launch of Discovery and the Robonauts’  six man crewmates. Mission managers gave the green light Monday.

“While it might be just a single step for these two robonauts, it’s really a giant leap forward for tinmankind,” said Rob Ambrose, acting chief of Johnson Space Center’s automation, robotics and simulation division in Houston.

R2  & D2 are a collaboration between NASA and General Motors.  The robots have themselves expressed concerns about GM being involved – “they don’t make the best cars, I’m not really happy about them making my brain,” said R2.

Each Robonaut is six-feet-tall and weighs 330 pounds. Each arm is 2 feet 8 inches long.  ” They are very popular with the women at NASA, I’ll tell you that,” said Rinderman.

The Robonatus are made of aluminum and nickel-plated carbon fiber, the torso and arms are padded to protect the Robonauts and the astronauts, all the way down to the five fingers on each hand. No metal, bony-looking fingers for these robots.

The robonauts’s eyes are where they should be: in its gold-colored head. Four visible light cameras are located behind the robot’s visor, and an infrared camera is in its mouth for depth perception.

A backpack holds a power system for plugging R2 & D2 into the space station. On an asteroid or Mars, the backpack would contain batteries.

NASA began working on its first dexterous robot — the landlubbing Robonaut 1 — in 1997. Lacking money, the project ceased in 2006. General Motors stepped in with the intention of improving car manufacturing and better protecting workers. Early this year, the much speedier R2 was unveiled.

Discovery’s astronaut-physician, Micahel Barratt, is looking forward to pawning off toilet cleaning duty to the Robonauts.

Here’s R2 working out for the trip: