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Dextre Robot Repairs ISS While Astronauts Sleep

Your friendly neighborhood robot electrician is happy to come by and fix your fried circuits, as long as your neighborhood is the International Space Station

2 min read
Dextre Robot Repairs ISS While Astronauts Sleep

Last time a circuit breaker went bad on the International Space Station, astronauts had to go outside and swap out the old breaker box for a new one. As much as you and I would love to be tasked with a spacewalk, it's a bit dangerous, and it takes up a lot of time that astronauts could better spend doing science and fooling around. Now that Dextre the space robot is operational, though, the humans get to sleep in while the robot does the housework.

Of course, space housework is a little bit different than terrestrial housework. Your house has circuit breakers too, and you may even need to replace them from time to time, but it's likely a bit less intensive than what has to happen on the ISS. Controlled from the ground, Dextre -- which according to one of its creators could "insert a DVD into a player" -- spent Sunday and Monday nights unbolting the bad breaker box and swapping it out for a new one on a nearby spare parts pallet. It was fast, easy, and there was no need for any of the human astronauts to even bother waking up.

So on the upside, having Dextre -- and other robots -- on the station to do important work is great. But the question is starting to be, is it worth it to have humans exploring space at all? We're very fragile, and keeping us alive is a complicated and expensive chore. There is definitely something to be said for having us go out and explore our solar system in person so that we can all feel as though our species is experiencing something new, but what if we could field five or ten times as many robotic exploration missions for the same amount of resources?

In any case, it's a little bit ironic that we've now got this big and capable and impervious space robot living outside the ISS, with the primary job of making sure that the puny little humans inside stay safe and sound.

[ CSA ] via [ TFT ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
DarkGray

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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