NASA's Robonaut getting upgrade

The 500-pound robot is getting legs, and the goal is to have it perform a space walk, taking over the risk humans are taking now
November 14, 2013 3:21:36 PM PST
One of NASA's newest toys is getting quite an upgrade, and soon it could play an integral part in space exploration.

This is a NASA project decades in the making. And though Robonaut is still in the developmental stages, it will eventually be used for the risky missions that are currently left up to humans.

Say hello to Robonaut. Yes, he towers over Astronaut Cady Coleman because he is 8 feet tall and weighs a lean 500 pounds.

"We're using Robonaut to understand how do robots and humans work together. And how do we understand each other? How do we understand what each one is going to do next? How do we communicate? How do we feel safe? And so that's what we are working on up on the space station," Coleman said.

But his size and several hundred pounds of weight does present a hazard on the International Space Station.

"When he is floating free around the cabin, what if someone kicks him? That is still several hundred pounds, kaboom, slamming into some experiment, some person, some piece of the space station," Coleman said.

In a sheer risk versus benefit, ultimately one of Robonaut's main tasks will be to perform a space walk, taking over the huge risk humans now take.

"To do a space walk takes a lot of consumables. We breathe, we have to check out the space suits, we have to be triple sure that everything is right because we don't want to lose anybody on a space walk," Coleman said.

Despite being a 50-year project, a moon walk is not yet imminent. NASA is still researching how humans and robots can compliment each other.

"It's something we're trying to figure out. How can we get something that isn't actually a person, to do something that we need to be done?" Coleman said.

And you might say Robonaut has a bit of a personality. While he's not able to speak, he's offered a few tweets, telling Mars Curiosity rover that he's not interested in a long distance relationship.

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