Humanoid Robot Joining International Space Station - InformationWeek
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10/26/2010
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Humanoid Robot Joining International Space Station

Robonaut 2, developed by NASA and General Motors, will help astronauts with tasks on the Space Shuttle Discovery's final mission.

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When astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) on the shuttle's final flight next week, they will get help performing tasks from a human-like robot, thanks to a collaboration between NASA and General Motors (GM).

Robonaut 2 will be part of the cargo of Discovery's STS-133 mission, which is scheduled for launch Monday, Nov. 1. It will be the last mission for the space shuttle, which has made 38 space flights since its first one on Aug. 30, 1984.

GM and NASA designed the robot, which is the most advanced humanoid of its kind, according to NASA, to perform mundane tasks and set up work sites for astronauts, eliminating some of their busywork so they can focus on other things, according to the space agency. The robot will become a permanent resident of the ISS, operating inside the Destiny laboratory.

As an experimental machine, Robonaut 2 is primarily meant to teach engineers how dexterous robots behave in space. NASA hopes that future versions of the robot will be able to perform more advanced tasks, such as spacewalks, repairs to the ISS, and scientific work.

In addition to the crew and Robonaut 2, Discovery's last flight also will deliver other components to be installed on the ISS.

One is the Permanent Multipurpose Module, which was converted from the multipurpose logistics module Leonardo to provide additional storage for station crew. Astronauts can also conduct a variety of experiments -- such as fluid physics, material science, biology, and biotechnology -- inside of the module, according to NASA.

The space shuttle also will carry spare parts for the ISS as well as the Express Logistics Carrier 4, an external platform for holding large equipment. Once astronauts reach the ISS, they will install the new components, as well as conduct two spacewalks.

The space shuttle program will have one more mission, scheduled for Feb. 27, 2011, before it comes to an end. In the program's final mission, STS-134, Space Shuttle Endeavor is meant to deliver spare parts to the ISS.

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