Robonaut extends its hand for the first "man-machine" handshake in space with Commander Dan Burbank. Credit: NASA TV
Robonaut 2 completed its initial checkouts on board the International Space Station Wednesday, February 15, 2012 and went on to make history with the first human/robotic handshake to be performed in space. The humanoid robot then provided a message sent down in sign language. "Hello World," the robot signed in American sign language, repeating the first tweet sent from its Twitter account, @AstroRobonaut, which also happens to be a traditional programming phrase.
› View video of historic handshake with Robonaut 2
R2, as the robot is nicknamed, launched to the International Space Station almost a year ago and has been put through a series of checkouts as its crewmates had time. The last of these checkouts started on Tuesday and finished today. All of the tests – which included force sensor verifications and free range movement demonstrations – were completed, wrapping up with the sign language message and a handshake between the robot and space station Commander Dan Burbank.
"For the record, it was a firm handshake," Burbank said. "Very nice. Nice job on the programming and all the engineering. Quite an impressive robot."
Following the tests, R2 was powered down and put back into storage until time for the robot's next task. Future plans include vision characterization work so that the robot's "eyes" can be used in future tests. The suite of cameras in its head not only provide R2's operators in space and on the ground with a view of what it's working on, they can also be used by the robot to verify the configuration of a switch its flipped or ensure that other work it has done is correct. After the vision characterization, the robot will be able to work with the taskboards sent into space, which mimic controls it would work with on the space station. All of this helps engineers prepare R2 to assist the crew inside and outside of the station in the future.
› Video of Robonaut 2 taskboard testing
"Today was a major step forward in R2's development," R2 Project Manager Ron Diftler said. "The crew and the robot are working extremely well together and we're looking forward to all the opportunities that will develop from this collaboration."