In the midst of the various beer, snack, and car commercials that aired this past Sunday during the Super Bowl, one stood out from all the rest. No, it didn’t involve talking babies, monkeys clothed in business attire, or scantily-clad web hosting spokeswomen. But what this TV spot showed could affect the way astronauts work in the dangers of outer space.
NASA, in partnership with General Motors, showed off the Robonaut 2, or R2 dexterous humanoid robot. Its fully-functional hands allow it to perform similar tasks and use the same tools that human astronauts use, but also includes the latest in leading edge control, sensor and vision technologies that allow it to do far more than human astronauts.
Like its predecessor, Robonaut 1, R2 is designed to assist astronauts during more dangerous tasks, however, R2 is four times faster than R1, more dexterous, and more technologically advanced. New features of the R2 include optimized overlapping dual arm dexterous workspace, series elastic joint technology, extended finger and thumb travel, miniaturized 6-axis load cells, redundant force sensing, ultra-high speed joint controllers, extreme neck travel, and high resolution camera and IR systems.
From the NASA Robonaut 2 fact sheet:
Robonaut 2, the latest generation of the Robonaut astronaut helpers, is set to launch to the space station aboard space shuttle Discovery on the STS-133 mission. It will be the first humanoid robot in space, and although its primary job for now is demonstrating to engineers how dexterous robots behave in space, the hope is that, through upgrades and advancements, it could one day venture outside the station to help spacewalkers make repairs or additions to the station or perform scientific work.
Here’s a NASA video about the project:
If you were ever curious how something like this gets packaged for shipment into space, here’s a time lapse video of the process:
NASA Fact Sheet (PDF)
Article and Interactive Feature on R2 from NASA…