Automobile major General Motors and the NASA Johnson Space Center announced that the Robonaut 2, the dexterous humanoid robot, has kicked off its first mission, about 264 miles above the Earth.
R2 has been packed aboard the space shuttle orbiter Discovery since fall 2010. R2 was scheduled to go into space in early November 2010. The final launch of Discovery on was delayed by a combination of weather and technical issues with the orbiter. Docking with the International Space Station is expected to occur shortly.
“GM engineers are also studying how the technology embedded within R2 can be put to use within manufacturing facilities to help create a safer working environment,” said Marty Linn, principal robotics engineer, GM, in a statement. “The dexterity and endurance of R2 can be used alongside people to help reduce repetitive stress injuries and the R2 sensing capabilities can be used in collision avoidance systems.”
R2 will go through a period of testing and further development before it begins regular duties alongside the astronauts.
R2 will remain aboard the ISS indefinitely and if all goes well, it will eventually be used to perform mundane maintenance and service tasks. Upgraded versions of R2 could eventually perform space walks.
Before Discovery lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center, R2 won the Robot of the Year award from the technology website Engadget.com. R2 captured 44 percent of the votes from the site's readers, ahead of five other contenders.
Recently, GM announced that Robonaut 2 will make a guest appearance with Fox Sports analyst Howie Long during the Fox Network pre-game show before Super Bowl XLV on Sunday.Rajani Baburajan is a contributing editor for SDNzone. To read more of Rajani's articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Janice McDuffee