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No C-3P0 Yet, But We Just Got a Lot Closer Thanks to R2!
Chimps Coalition for Pro-Choice Space Flights Applauds New Humanoid Robot Technology
Science fiction writers have predicted the existence of humanoid robots for over 60 years, and it has finally happened. Robonaut 2 has joined fellow astronauts on the International Space Station, and will soon begin relieving them of some of their work. Robonaut 2 was delivered to the Space Station via the last flight of space shuttle Discovery in March. Astronauts woke him up on Monday, August 22, 2011. Two computers in R2's stomach whirred to life and sparked cheers from all the hardworking team members. The first thing he did? He sent a message via Twitter…well, it was his handlers who actually did the tweeting for him under the proud name of AstroRobonaut: "Those electrons feel GOOD! One small step for man, one giant leap for tinman kind."
Robonaut 2's primary job will be to mitigate the potential for harm to the human astronauts throughout their duties, such as completing significantly riskier tasks and exploring situations or environments with unknown variables. Robonaut 2 is not yet a complete humanoid. Currently, he stands 3 feet 4 inches and has two 2-foot 8-inch long arms, but no legs. Kind of stocky for a short guy, he weighs 330 pounds. NASA plans to have his legs designed and delivered to him by 2013. Handlers in Huston operate him by remote control. NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas built the $2.5 million robot along with General Motors and Oceaneering Space Systems.
His nickname is R2, yes, like the lovable Star Wars robot R2-D2. His head is not unlike a golden-colored Storm Trooper out of Star Wars. One benefit of having R2 aboard the Space Station is to “man” the ship in case there are no human astronauts on board for a few weeks. This has not yet happened, but the crash of a Russian ship earlier this year highlights the potential for such an event. At least humans would have “someone” on board if other astronauts were delayed for some reason. R2 can also take over many routine, repetitive tasks that often hinder a skeleton staff of highly trained, busy astronauts aboard the Space Station.
Four cameras serve as R2's eyes. An infrared camera in his mouth gives him depth perception. Thirty processors control the movements of his arms. Though R2 has been aboard the Space Station for some months, his operating software only arrived recently. Further delays were due to the busy schedule of the astronauts aboard the Space Station. Everything came on and worked according to plans.
For now, R2's assignments will keep him inside the Space Station, though developers hope future models will one day assist on spacewalks. Early next year, R2 can begin helping astronauts by taking air quality measurements. Astronauts wanted more time to play with their new companion, but held off. For now, the fragile R2 must spend his off-duty hours inside a fireproof bag. After many months in storage, he needs some time to get his bearings.
1944: Camano Class Light Cargo Ship was laid down for the US Army as FS-289 at Wheeler Shipbuilding in Whitestone, NY.
1955 - 1963: Used as a cargo supply ship for the Texas Towers, a network of advanced radar stations located off the Eastern Seaboard. In 1957, Capt. Sixto Mangual was commander of the AKL-17 and in 1961 it was rechristened the USNS New Bedford. The New Bedford, sailing out of State Pier, was keeping vigil when Texas Tower No. 4 callapsed off the New Jersey coast during a January 1961 nor'easter.
2006: Design of the Tesla Turbine began on June 11, 2006. The Sea Bird was sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service for commercial service.