NASA: Humanoid robot wakes up on space station

The humanoid robot on board the International Space Station was brought to life on Monday.

The Robonaut 2 (Photo courtesy of NASA) The humanoid robot on board the International Space Station was brought to life on Monday.

The robot, dubbed Robonaut 2 or R2, was fired up almost six months after being brought up to the orbiter by the crew of the space shuttle Discovery on its last mission before retirement. Space station engineers Satoshi Furukawa and Mike Fossum assembled the robot and powered it up for the first time.

The astronauts, according to NASA, did not give Robonaut 2 a command to move but they did run a test of its electronics, which focused on the thermal response sensors in its joints.

The space agency did not say when the robot will be on the move inside the station. After nearly a year of tests to see how the robot responds on the space station and how its human counterparts react to it, Robonaut 2 is expected to perform tasks, such as cleaning and basic maintenance inside the orbiter, as well as to help astronauts outside on spacewalks.

The 300-pound robot has been in the works for about 11 years. R2 was built with a total of 38 Power PC processors, including 36 embedded chips, which control its joints. Each of the embedded processors communicates with the main chip in the robot.

At first, the robot will be connected to a pedestal on the space station and will only be able to work in place. By the end of the year, NASA hopes to ship one or two leg attachments to be attached to Robonaut 2, giving it more mobility around the orbiter.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0 , emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com .

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