April 19th, 2010
02:48 PM ET

NASA to send human-like 'Robonaut' to space

NASA hopes R2, or Robonaut 2, will one day work alongside humans in space.

In a not too distant future, on a space station not too far away, there will be a 300-pound human-like robot to assist astronauts on space missions.

And it will be a GM.

At least that's the plan for Robonaut 2, or R2, a space station robot developed by NASA and General Motors Corp.

R2 is set to make its debut in September on space shuttle Discovery. While not quite as handy as C-3PO or R2D2 from the "Star Wars" franchise, NASA officials have equipped Robonaut 2 with human-like hands and arms to hold the same tools that station crew members use.

NASA.gov: See more photos of Robonaut 2

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

The R2 has yet to be tested in microgravity and electromagnetic environments, but, GM officials say they are heavily testing the Robonaut before it goes into space.

While R2 undergoes extreme testing, GM officials hope the technology can be used in auto plants that use robotics.

Collaboration on R2 "will help us validate manufacturing technologies that will improve the health and safety of our GM team members at our manufacturing plants throughout the world," said Alan Taub, vice president of GM's global research and development.

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Filed under: Space • Technology
soundoff (41 Responses)

    Its a joke. A cognitive cyborg it is not. Today, such a 'robot" is more of a PR stunt than a truly functional tool. People get so excited when they see something that "looks" human and can move. This "robot" will not operate as designed the first time, will be too heavy and after its first mission will be shelved. GM is just trying to get in better with the public and it seems to be working for now. Robots that have true value in the near future will come from China as ever computer we use today does. Assuming GM actually has a design that is truly profound (I doubt it) such a device will be produced in China not the US. Lets all realize one FACT...The United States may design technologyfrom time to time but it will be produced in China. GM knows this and so should the morons reading this comment.

    April 20, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mad Doc

    Hey, what an R2-D2 minute! How does that R2 gonna be powered up to? A coal-fired machine? A nuclear power? Steam engine? Gas powered? Where ya gonna find a gas station in space to "fill-er up mac"?

    April 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Alex

    Like any other 17 year old growing up in this time you can help but smile at a variety of things. Number 1, the fact that Gm isn't exactly doing to hot last i checked( number 24 your very right). Two, How do we know it won't suddenly fail at some crucial moment because it lost a direct feed of solar power from the sun. Three, forn you video gammers out there, who saw this as a boss in Metal Gear Solid? Four, if it breacks down, is there a process for repairing while in space? I hope so. As soon as we don't prepare for something it happens. (Any past Us failures to go space ring a bell?). Also like many invetions, this may make noise now, but it may never really go to space. Though with NASA involved, it has a good chance. ^.^

    April 20, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chase

    I, for one, welcome our robot overlords.

    April 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Primetime

    Why must we build robots that look like us? Seems like a waste of technology (ok, I mean the tax dollars that NASA does end up recieving) and a step away from efficiency.

    April 20, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jack

    I can see it now, lol..... some crotchety real life Han Solo type, hundreds of years from now is gonna be calling the very last of this model "Old Coppertop" instead of "Goldenrod" as it tries to relink the hyperdrive coupling mid-photon space battle.....

    April 20, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. J Stephens

    Shoulda' been ASIMO....

    April 20, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jack

    Great, a six billion dollar bolt tightener. Leave it to the government to find the most expensive way to do anything.

    April 20, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Space Guy

    We need to support NASA 110% Those 15 or so billion dollars we spend each year on NASA is nothing compared to the 700 billion stimulus package given out to save incompetent and failing banks. Liquidate all of Goldman Sachs and give all the money from it to NASA I say. NASA's ROI is besides far greater than those schmucks at Goldman Sachs could ever achieve. Goldman Sachs looses billions for investors and other companies, some of which had to be bailed out in the US and in Germany because of Goldman Sachs' poor economic decisions. NASA gave the world tons of technology we use in our daily lives. The cell phone, GPS, the internet, countless medical equipment for instance. Need I say more?

    April 20, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Gogot mechanic

    Robots will never have a religion/sex/race/poor/rich etc.. They can govern the world without discrimination.

    April 21, 2010 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
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