In Stanley Kubrick’s "2001: A Space Odyssey," the ship’s computer HAL killed most of the astronauts on board. Luckily, NASA’s latest addition to its crew is a bit friendlier. Space.com reports that NASA has developed Robonaut 2, a robot meant to help with mundane chores and risky missions aboard the International Space Station. Recently, they launched a Twitter account for Robonaut 2, dubbed R2. And as of press time, the intrepid robot has more than 12,000 followers.
R2, which operates on pre-programmed plans, looks like half an astronaut. It has a torso, head, arms and hands and can operate much like an astronaut would on the space station. In this way R2 differs from Dextre, a non-humanoid maintenance robot that lives outside the International Space Station. Brandi Dean is the press officer at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. As she told Space.com, "We've never put a dexterous humanoid robot in space before. So we can make theories about how they'll behave in space, but it's always great to check them."
R2 is NASA’s most advanced robot to date. The first known robot was built in 270 BC by a Greek engineer named Ctesibus. It had organs made of clocks with movable figures. Flash forward a couple millennium and we have the first industrial robot arm online at General Motors in 1961. In 1979, the Standford Cart crossed a room without human assistance. NASA’s robots took off from there.
And just who is R2? According to its Twitter account, it claims no relation to the nefarious HAL 9000. Nor is it a relation to Boba Fett, despite their similar-looking helmets. When asked of a possible connection on Twitter, its handlers replied “Sorry, no relation to Boba Fett. Besides, I'm a friendly robot." R2 also claims no gender, it can speak only computer code and English, and it can play chess with some help.
Ultimately, R2 seems excited for its time in the spotlight. As it most recently tweeted, “The media has arrived. Looking forward to seeing myself on TV.” You can follow R2 here @astrorobonaut.
For further reading: