The Tech Herald

NASA and GM unveil new robotic astronaut

by Stevie Smith - Feb 5 2010, 17:02

To infinity and beyond, Dave. Image: NASA.

President Barack Obama may have recently cut the funding legs from beneath NASA regarding the Constellation Project and future manned missions to the Moon, but that isn’t likely to stop the cash-strapped U.S. space administration from reaching towards the stars. 

More pointedly, NASA has this week revealed that its scientists are currently working with experts from engineering giant General Motors (GM) to accelerate the development of Robonaut, a line of robotic astronauts that could serve as Mankind’s explorers of tomorrow.

Utilising leading-edge control, sensor and vision technology, NASA is looking to create robots capable of providing direct assistance to human astronauts during hazardous space missions. While, on the flip side of the deal, GM sees the robotic creations as potentially helping it to build safer cars and manufacturing facilities.

“This cutting-edge robotics technology holds great promise, not only for NASA, but also for the nation,” enthused Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington.

“I’m very excited about the new opportunities for human and robotic exploration these versatile robots provide across a wide range of applications,” he added in an official statement.

The newest iteration of the Robonaut technology built by NASA and GM (with assistance from Houston-based Oceaneering Space Systems) has been imaginatively titled Robonaut 2 (or R2), and is described as faster, more dexterous and more technologically advanced than its 10-year-old predecessor.

“This new generation of robot can use its hands to do work beyond the scope of prior humanoid machines,” offers NASA. “R2 can work safely alongside people, a necessity both on Earth and in space.”

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