Robonaut 2 Headed for Home

At this moment, Robonaut 2 (R2) has around 21 hours left on Earth before it goes up to its permanent home on the International Space Station. R2 will launch on the Discovery space shuttle on February 24, 2011 at approximately 4:50 Eastern Standard Time.

So, what exactly is a Robonaut and why is this mission to the Space Station so important? A Robonaut is one of NASA’s humanoid robots designed and tested at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. R2 will work as an assistant to the human astronauts. This mission is important because it is the first dexterous humanoid robot to be sent to space. NASA will use this mission to explore the best ways to send R2 and other humanoid robots to destinations farther out (the Moon and Mars, and possibly beyond).

Courtesy of NASA

NASA said it has no plans on bringing R2 back to Earth. (Sort of makes me sad. Maybe I can send it Christmas cards.)

Visit the official site for Robonaut 2 for information, images, and videos. If you’re an educator, visit NASA Education for engaging instructional materials. If you’re a student and love science, visit NASA’s student site.

Oh, and R2 tweets! Follow R2 @AstroRobonaut. I do find it interesting that on Twitter and Facebook, R2 is posting with a human-like voice, and most fans are addressing it directly and giving it best wishes. Of course, we R2 fans know it isn’t human, but there is definitely a connection present between R2 and those of us who are observing the events. This isn’t so surprising considering research has shown that androids elicit social responses in humans. R2 may not have a human face, but on some level, we still envision a flesh-and-blood person inside that big bronze noggin casing.

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Get interesting tidbits on fictional robots; robotics in education and healthcare; fighting machines; robot books, toys, and trinkets; dancing androids; and all the other robots in-between.

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