Human astronauts are more than capable of withstanding the uninhabitable final frontiers of space with the proper equipment. But, being human, we have our physiological limits, something that robots conveniently lack.
That limitless ability has lead NASA to develop Robonaut, a 'bot with a torso and two arms that will soon be getting a pair of much-needed robotic legs as early as the start of next year. With its new robo legs, Robonaut will rise to 8-feet and weigh 500 pounds.
With the addition of ultra-long legs, Robonaut will be able to move around freely by himself, and may even possibly replace an astronaut should the need arise. The robot may have the potential of one day walking around on the moon or on other planets for weeks or months at a time, although it won't be doing so anytime soon, since NASA advancements move at the pace of a turtle. The robot is part of NASA's Project M and is currently in its 17th year of its 50 year development period.
Testing, refining and integrating Robonaut's legs with its current interface will be necessary prior to its very first step. Unsurprisingly, the super-tall bot won't be taking baby steps: each of its strides will be spacious enough to quickly cover the area between the ISS's many modules, with a gait similar to an antelope's.
NASA is also worried about the repercussions of having such a hefty piece of equipment floating around on the ISS: should an astronaut accidentally knock into Robonaut, it could spark a dangerous collision with something in the space station, making independent function a crucial feature in its final design.
Unlike Japan's talkative Kirobo astrobot, Robonaut does not talk, though he does tweet and is currently learning sign language with his articulating fingers. In a recent tweet preceding the (now concluded) government shutdown, Robonaut confirmed he might just be C-3PO's great, great, great descendant, and confessed he just doesn't possess the hardware to twerk. Guess his Miley cameo will have to wait!
(Middle photo credit: ABC News)