Robots have been a staple of science fiction stories for decades. Isaac Asimov in particular has some intriguing stories exploring the ways in which humans and robots might one day interact. Real robots, meanwhile, worked at very mundane jobs in physically demanding or dangerous environments, and never looked much at all like their humanoid fictional counterparts. Some made it into the space program, but they were called probes or rovers, never robots.
This week, however – assuming the shuttle launch isn’t delayed again – a robot astronaut will accompany the human astronauts into space. From the waist up, Robonaut 2 looks surprisingly humanoid. His leg is still under development (yes, he will be a monoped rather than a biped), but when finished he will stand about 6′ 3″ tall.
He’ll be much heavier than the average man his height, weighing in at 410 pounds. In the weightless environment of space, however, so what? An article at HowStuffWorks gives details about Robonaut’s development and how he will work. Of course, the article is apparently a bit old, as it says “Robonaut is unlikely to visit space in the next five years.”
Oh, and the article doesn’t call Robonaut a “he” – that’s just how it came out as I wrote this post. After all, I’ve been reading science fiction since I was about ten years old – and robots always end up having personalities.