The astronauts at the International Space Station have new company, a humanoid robot, which was activated Monday, six months after it was delivered to orbit.

The automaton astronaut, named Robonaut 2, was constructed by NASA as part of a joint project with General Motors at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The goal of perfecting the model was that it could help humans in performing complex tasks, whether in space or on Earth.


Robonaut 2, a dexterous, humanoid astronaut helper, will fly to the International Space Station aboard space shuttle Discovery on the STS-133 mission. Although it will initially only participate in operational tests, upgrades could eventually allow the robot to realize its true purpose — helping spacewalking astronauts with tasks outside the space station. Credit: NASA

The 330-pound Robonaut 2, also called R2, has a head, torso, arms and incredibly dexterous five-fingered hands. As of now, R2 is attached to an anchor-like pole, but a pair of legs for climbing through the corridors of the space station is being designed and will reportedly be launched in 2013.

Although the humanoid robot was sent to the space station during the shuttle Discovery's final flight in February, it was not removed from its box until U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with the crew members and reportedly encouraged them to set it free.


NASA's Robonaut 2 strikes a post atop its new wheeled base, Centaur 2, at the Johnson Space Center Planetary Analog Test Site in Houston. The Centaur base builds off of lessons learned through the Space Exploration Vehicle, a rover for astronauts, and could allow the dexterous humanoid robot to help with the future exploration of distant planetary surfaces. Credit: NASA

Robonaut2 surpasses previous dexterous humanoid robots in strength, yet it is safe enough to work side-by-side with humans. It is able to lift, not just hold, this 20-pound weight (about four times heavier than what other dexterous robots can handle) both near and away from its body. Credit: NASA

NASA said R2 will help astronauts with regular tasks including holding tools, vacuuming air filters and even making mechanical repairs outside the space station, the Los Angeles Times reported.

If everything goes well, Robonaut 2 may be able to take on a few chores, such as taking air velocity measurements inside the space station, early next year, deputy project manager Nicolaus Radford told the Associated Press.


The first view recorded by the camera eyes of Robonaut 2, a robot helper on the International Space Station, during the first tests of the droid on Aug. 22, 2011 during the Expedition 28 mission. Credit: NASA

The first view seen through Robonaut's eyes was a panel of cables, dials and instruments, according to multiple reports. It is powered by 38 PowerPC processors that include 36 embedded chips. All the embedded chips communicate with the main chip.

Those electrons feel GOOD! One small step for man, one giant leap for tinman kind, read a post on Robonaut 2's Twitter page, which was posted by an engineering team.

According to the official Robonaut's microblog, R2 has successfully cleared its first test. However, astronauts will continue running tests, and therefore, R2 will not actually move until the beginning of September.

Robonaut 2 isn't the only humanoid that has been built by NASA. A twin of the robot stayed behind on Earth, and will be taken into the New Mexico desert next week as part of DesertRATS, a space-exploration technology demonstration test program, reported.