NASA's Clone War Begins

Human-like robot to join ISS crew

By Jim Iovino
|  Wednesday, Apr 14, 2010  |  Updated 4:16 PM EDT
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R2, NASA's Robot Astronaut

NASA

R2, the iron-pumpin', lady-killin' NASA robot.

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With chimpanzees tied up in other projects these days, NASA recognizes a need for new sources of labor in space.

Enter the Robonaut 2, a 300-pound human-like machine with a head, torso, two arms and two hands that will be joining the crew of the International Space Station permanently in September.

Not to be confused with another famous droid, R2 is the creation of NASA and General Motors.  And he has some creepy sci-fi characteristics.

From NASA's press release:

The dexterous robot not only looks like a human but also is designed to work like one. With human-like hands and arms, R2 is able to use the same tools station crew members use. In the future, the greatest benefits of humanoid robots in space may be as assistants or stand-in for astronauts during spacewalks or for tasks too difficult or dangerous for humans.

In the present, we're guessing he'll be really good at stirring Tang. And he appears to be one heck of a weightlifter, judging by the photo above. But as a colleague pointed out, couldn't they have just made him stronger instead of having him lift weights? Perhaps he's just showing off for the lady astronauts.

"This project exemplifies the promise that a future generation of robots can have both in space and on Earth," said John Olson, director of NASA's Exploration Systems Integration Office. "Not as replacements for humans, but as companions that can carry out key supporting roles."

So don't worry, space explorers. R2 isn't here to take your job. At least not yet.

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