A Robonaut is a dexterous humanoid robot built and designed at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Our challenge is to build machines that can help humans work and explore in space. Working side by side with humans, or going where the risks are too great for people, Robonauts will expand our ability for construction and discovery. Central to that effort is a capability we call dexterous manipulation, embodied by an ability to use one’s hand to do work, and our challenge has been to build machines with dexterity that exceeds that of a suited astronaut.
There are currently four Robonauts, with others in development. This allows us to study various types of mobility, control methods, and task applications. The value of a humanoid over other designs is the ability to use the same workspace and tools – not only does this improve efficiency in the types of tools, but also removes the need for specialized robotic connectors. Robonauts are essential to NASA’s future as we go beyond low earth orbit and continue to explore the vast wonder that is space.
Robonaut 2 or R2, launched to the International Space Station on space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission, it is the first dexterous humanoid robot in space, and the first US-built robot at the space station. But that was just one small step for a robot and one giant leap for robot-kind!