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NASA Upgrades Humanoid Robot in Space

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NASA astronaut and International Space Station commander Steve Swanson with Robonaut 2.

Aboard the International Space Station, NASA astronaut and Space Station Commander Steve Swanson gets ready to install upgrades to Robonaut 2.

Credit: NASA TV

Robonaut 2 (R2), a 300-pound legless, humanoid robot that has been working on the International Space Station since 2011, is getting a series of upgrades, including new processors and software, in preparation of having a pair of legs attached to it.

"Since arriving aboard the station in May 2011 during the STS-134 space shuttle mission, Robonaut has been put through a series of increasingly complex tasks to test the feasibility of a humanoid robot taking over routine and mundane chores or even assisting a spacewalker outside the station," the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) says on its website.

Once the legs are attached to the robot's torso, R2 will have a fully extended leg span of nine feet, which will give it increased flexibility to move around the inside and outside of the space station. R2 has 38 PowerPC processors, including 36 embedded chips that control the robot's joints, and each leg has seven joints and a device on its foot called an end effector which enables the robot to use handrails and sockets.

Robonaut, which communicates via sign language and can correctly press buttons, flip switches, and turn knobs, is part of a test to see how robots function in space and work with astronauts.

From Computerworld
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