Space Suit of the Week

Man, that’s a buff Robonaut.

Probably the most interesting thing GM had worked on in the past decade is the Robonaut, a robotic astronaut developed jointly between the automaker and NASA. Currently in its second iteration, R2 is an impressively dexterous humanoid robot that can handle repetitive, dangerous or dirty tasks, allowing the human space travelers to worry only about the inevitable Robonaut mutiny.

R2 will live aboard the International Space Station, and make robofriends with Dextre, a Canadian robot that’s been living aboard the ISS since 2008. They will mostly likely not be friends with Asimo. But maybe liberated from gravity, Honda’s humanoid robot will finally be able to stop falling down stairs and can be utilized by JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.

While robots are frequently used by automakers, as far as I know the relationship between GM and NASA is unique. In fact, NASA and GM were partners to develop the Lunar Rover used during the final three Apollo missions. And the three-year partnership to develop R2 has cropped 34 patents, mostly involving sensors that may one day keep us from steering into each others’ blind spots.

It would be a mistake not to mention that this Robonaut has an older brother, that sometimes looks like a centaur.


July 9, 2010