This Will Be Robonaut's New Job on the ISS, For Now

Practicing on a taskboard may not be exciting, but Robonaut will have to master it before he can get a real job on the International Space Station

1 min read
Photo: NASA

Robonaut 2 has been up on the International Space Station for, geez, like a year now, and it's only over the last few days that he's really gotten to wake up, stretch out, and get to work. What work is that? Well, it's not hand-to-hand combat with invading aliens. Not yet, anyway.

If you missed Robonaut's checkout, here's a video of the whole thing, but I'll go ahead and spoil it all by letting you know that it's predominantly a range of motion test to make sure that all of Robonaut's motors and joints were working properly, and aside from some fabric binding around the elbows, the robot checked out a-okay.

The other purpose to the motion tests was to try and figure out how Robotnaut's movements change in zero g as opposed to 1 g (1 g is equal to the force of gravity on the Earth's surface): his limbs all still have mass, of course, but since they don't weigh anything, calibrations are going to be necessary to make sure that the bot retains all of that manual dexterity he's so well known for.

So, what's next? Well, it's great news that Robonaut can move his limbs, but it's going to take some practice before he's able to make a meaningful contribution to the crew by reducing their workload. Practice is what Robonaut is going to start doing next, using a taskboard where he can press buttons, flip switches, and use tools without risking accidental thruster firings, unexpected decompression, or arming of the railgun turrets or laser cannons:

Taskboard manipulation is not the most exciting of jobs, but it's an important first step in being able to let the robot perform autonomous tasks safely and reliably.

Via [ NASA ]

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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
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

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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