Robonaut Wiggles Its Fancy New Legs

A new video from NASA shows Robonaut's legs in action

2 min read
Robonaut Wiggles Its Fancy New Legs

Robonaut 2's space legs have been a not-secret since astronaut Rick Mastracchio posted a picture of them to Twitter back in January. Or at least, that's the first time we saw 'em. Since then, pictures have popped up all over the place, since anyone taking the Level 9 Tour at NASA's Johnson Space Center had a halfway decent chance of getting a peek. What we haven't seen, though, is much in the way of footage of Robonaut legging itself around. Finally, we've got some video* of that, which we can summarize in one word: wiggly.

These legs are not for walking, obviously, because Robonaut is designed for space, where it doesn't need legs that'll be able to successfully stand up to gravity, as it where. Rather, Robonaut's legs are more like secondary arms with secondary hands, that the robot will use to climb around the outside of the International Space Station, and to hold itself in place as it works with its primary arms and hands.

With its seven-jointed legs fully extended, Robonaut can span a gap of nearly three meters. Cameras and grippers on the ends of the legs lets the robot see where it's grabbing, and there are already plenty of rails and sockets on the ISS to help Robonaut get from place to place. The legs will be functional inside the station as well, and the Robonaut torso currently on duty in space is scheduled to receive this upgrade early next year.

Now, it would be pretty cool if NASA had a humanoid robot with actual real legs that could walk around on Earth and do stuff, and it would be even cooler if we got an early look at that robot and were able to share with you in the next day or two. Wouldn't that be cool?

* The video we embedded originally was removed from YouTube, so we found a replacement.

[ NASA ]

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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.

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

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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