NASA is teaming together humans and robots to work in space, according to this NASA News Release.
Humans and robots worked side-by-side this summer at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston to evaluate the concept of using human-robotic teams to improve the productivity of astronauts working outside the International Space Station, other space vehicles, or on the surface of other planets.
"We like to think of these as 'EVA (extravehicular activity) squads' -- humans outside the spacecraft in space suits, dexterous robots, humans inside the spacecraft or on the ground tele-operating robots, free-flying robots, giant crane robots -- all working together to get the job done," said Test Conductor Dr. Robert Ambrose of the JSC Engineering Directorate's Automation, Robotics and Simulation Division.
"The EVA work done now uses two astronauts, backing each other up, with help from astronauts inside and a large robotic arm outside," said Ambrose, who also manages the Robonaut Project that supplied two dexterous humanoid robots for the test.
Here is a photography from NASA showing Astronaut Nancy Currie, wearing a training version of an advanced concept space suit, shaking hands with a Robonaut.
Currie wore an advanced-concept space suit designed for use on other planets. The suit is half as heavy as a standard Shuttle Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) and easier to maneuver in Earth's gravity. The "I-suit," developed for NASA by ILC Dover, Inc., is one of several different advanced space suit assemblies being used to compare the relative merits and liabilities of various suit components.
"I think it went great," Currie said of the test series. "In the next five years, when we think about EVA, we're going to think in terms of sending out squads. If you look at an EVA timeline, about 20 percent is worksite setup and closeout, getting tools ready and managing tethers." Robonauts could help reduce that time, making an astronaut more productive or cutting the amount of time the astronaut has to be outside in a hazardous environment.
And when will this technology be deployed?
"We're looking at what new machines we need to build and how we need to team them up to help the astronauts get more work done," Ambrose said. "The technology could be ready for International Space Station jobs in the next three to four years."
If you need more information, all you'd ever want to know about the Robonaut is available directly from NASA.
Source: NASA News Release, July 6, 2003
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