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What Is Robonaut? (Grades K-4)

This article is for students grades K-4.

Robonaut is a NASA robot. It is built to look like a person. It was built to help astronauts work in space.

Robonaut facing a spacesuit

What Does Robonaut Do?

NASA started to work on the Robonaut project in 1996. The newest one is called Robonaut 2, or R2. Robonaut has a head, upper body, arms and hands. Robonaut’s head has cameras. They work like human eyes. The hands move like human hands. The fingers move so Robonaut can do many things. Robonaut can use the same tools as an astronaut. Robonaut’s upper body can be put on different lower halves. This lets it move from place to place. For example, Robonaut has a set of legs for the space station. NASA tested the robot with a set of wheels on Earth.  

Two Robonaut models hold tools

How Does Robonaut Work?

Robonaut can work in two ways. People can give Robonaut a simple job to do. Robonaut’s computer receives the direction. Then Robonaut figures out how to do it. Robonaut also can be run by remote control. A person uses a headset. It lets the person see what Robonaut can see through its cameras. The person can then make Robonaut move by using controls.

Robonaut 2 (R2) and a woman sitting at a computer nearby

What Will Robonaut Do on the Space Station?

Robonaut went to the space station in 2011. On the station, Robonaut was like an extra pair of hands. Because R2 is a robot, it does not get tired or bored. So, it was perfect for measuring how the air moves on the station. The robot can stand very still. It does not breathe. It can hold a tool to measure the air without breathing on the tool. R2 was also good at cleaning the many handrails inside the station. R2 also had a special board with buttons and switches. It practiced pushing the buttons. It practiced flipping switches.

Robonaut 2 did many other jobs on the station. Now the robot is on Earth for repairs and improvements. Robonaut 2 will be a better robot. After Robonaut 2 is ready, it will return to the space station.

What Does the Future Hold for Robonaut?

Someday soon, Robonaut will return to the space station. The robot will be tested more there. It might work with other robots. The next time astronauts go to the Moon, a robot like Robonaut might go, too. One might even go to Mars the first time people visit.

NASA Project Engineer Shelley Rea wears robotic leg harness as demonstration, which is mean for use by human paraplegics in spac

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