Robonaut 2, NASA Astronaut Dan Burbank Share First Humanoid Handshake in Space
International Space Station commander Dan Burbank shook hands on Wednesday with Robonaut 2, the first time man and machine have exchanged the traditional male greeting on the high frontier.
“For the record, it was a firm handshake,” Burbank informed Mission Control, where experts have been standing by over the past two days to continue their long running efforts to check out the muscular looking robot. “Very nice, quite an impressive robot.”
Station science control teams at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., cheered.
“Congratulations on the handshake,” controllers radioed Burbank, who is being assisted with Robonaut 2 operations this week by European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers.
Robonaut 2, a joint development effort between NASA and General Motors, was launched to the space station in February 2011 aboard the shuttle Discovery. The trip affirmed a vision long portrayed in popular science fiction, both in the movies and in novels, that humans and machines were meant to explore together.
Robonaut 2 was stowed away until efforts to assemble the U. S. portions of the station came to an end in July.
Last October, Robonaut moved for the first time, after being powered up by then station commander Mike Fossum.
Additional work with the robot on the station was put on hold while engineers adjusted the machine’s force sensors to weightlessness. Robonaut was developed and tested in a lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Tex.
The latest round of station check outs will have Robonaut’s arms and hands working at a task board, flipping switches, turning knobs and learning to work with hand tools.
Both NASA and GM are interested in developing robots that can work safely around humans either in space or on terrestrial assembly lines, taking over routine time consuming tasks.
Eventually, Robonaut will be assigned to internal maintenance duties on the station, perhaps regularly cleaning the air filters.
At some point, Robonaut is likely to participate in spacewalks, possibly setting up a worksites for the humans who will follow along for the more demanding work.
As NASA envisions the future, future generations of Robonaut will join humans as they explore far beyond the Earth.