Say Hello to R2 aka Hardhat Harry


Robonaut. It sounds like the title of a cheap sci-fi flick or perhaps the name of a second-rate children’s superhero action toy. In reality, Robonaut, Robonaut 2 (R2), to be exact, is a vital part of the crew aboard the International Space Station. He is a humanoid robot the gringa likes to call “Hardhat Harry” because of the types of jobs he performs as well as the future plans NASA is cooking up for him and future Hardhat Harry clones.

Presently Hardhat Harry is going through his paces as NASA engineers study how well he performs at this job. NASA hopes that one day Hardhat Harry will be able to join astronauts in their dangerous and risky spacewalks when they perform the necessary maintenance and repairs required on the outside of the space station.

But Hardhat Harry is more than just a handyman, he is also a scientist. In the Destiny laboratory he takes velocity air measurements. However, he is not above giving handrails a good scrubbing. And, just like the gringa, Hardhat Harry likes to flip switches and push buttons.

Guess how he performs his duties? Does the dear reader envision a programmer sitting in front of a computer screen inputting commands? Perhaps an image flashes through your mind of something like a video game with an engineer using a joystick to maneuver Hardhat Harry through his tasks. Nope, it’s even cooler than that. Crew members on board the ISS get to play a very serious scientific game of virtual reality, donning virtual reality headgear and controlling Hardhat Harry as if he were themselves!

Although Hardhat Harry has plenty of charm, don’t fall in love yet. Don’t get any ideas of thinking you will be able to visit one of the many space centers around the world when he returns from his mission and get his autograph. NASA has no plans for Hardhat Harry to ever return home.

Hardhat Harry will continue to be improved and upgraded as researchers learn how to adapt the technology to perform in the vacuum of space and eventually embark on deep space missions. Fleets of R2 Hardhat Harry clones will become the world’s future hi-tech repairmen, traveling far and wide to repair and upgrade communications and weather satellites. There is also great hope that a Hardhat Harry crew will be developed and shipped off to Mars for a surface mission or mine geological resources from the Moon.

Hardhat Harry and his kin will not replace astronauts, so, dear readers, if you are an astronaut hopeful like the gringa there is no need to despair. R2s are simply going to go first and make the way safer for exploration. And, by performing the boring repair jobs, astronauts can devote more time to discovery.

The next phase of progress is to deliver Hardhat Harry some legs. It may seem kind of silly to have Hardhat Harry up there, trying to get the job done without any legs, but remember, he is working in microgravity. He doesn’t necessarily need legs to move about the ISS. And, the legs they will be sending him don’t even have feet. They have grasping contraptions at the end of his “legs” that will secure him to railings while he works.

And, by having removable legs, Hardhat Harry has the option to rove about planetary surfaces centaur style. NASA is developing a four-wheel vehicle that Hardhat Harry’s torso can attach to as he zips about the Moon or Mars or wherever his adventures take him or NASA needs him.

Fans of R2 (aka Hardhat Harry) can keep up with all his exploits in space via Twitter @AstroRobonaut. So, for all the gringa’s dear readers who love robots and have great big dreams and ambitions with robotic technologies, keep your dreams alive and see if NASA can help you make them come true!

Source & Image Credit:  www.nasa.gov

 

Orbs In Orbit


When thinking about NASA and robots, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the robotic arm that is used frequently to snag things in space around the International Space Station. However, NASA is way beyond just a robotic arm. Entire robotic spacecrafts are the technologies that are in development. The ultimate gaming experience has got to be the joystick controls of these babies as they maneuver through their missions in orbit around Earth. The Hubble Space Telescope is just one such example.

Now, the Hubble takes beautiful panoramic space photos. What about if you need to pick a space splinter out of something. Are there robotic orbs designed for that kind of delicate work? Well, hopefully, in the future, if a satellite gets a speck of space dust in the wrong nook or cranny, NASA’s Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot (VIPIR) should have the perfect set of robotic baby blue’s to get the job done. This robot is really an articulated borescope that has a zoom lens. Robotic eyes (that eighties song “She’s Got Bette Davis Eyes” is now playing through my mind relentlessly).

VIPIR will play sidekick to Dextre, the handyman of the future who is already on the job. Dextre is a robot developed by the Canadian Space Agency. Ya know the good ol’ days when you pulled up to the full service lane at a gas station and the attendant came out to pump your gas, clean your windshield and check your tire pressure and fluid levels? Well, that’s kinda what Dextre’s job description is. Dextre is the critical element in NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM).  A two-armed robot, he demonstrates his abilities of servicing and refueling satellites in outer space. Although he’s not pumping crude. A fill-up from Dextre involves the transfer of xenon.

Now, the gringa’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. I’m sure my salary requirements are much less than Dextre’s maintenance expenses. I’m more than willing to put on a pair of coveralls, a cap and be ready for the “ding-ding” of a passing satellite or spaceship that needs their tank topped off. I do believe I finally see my chance at a space job I’m actually qualified for! My hopes are rising higher and higher that my astronaut dreams will some day come true.

Source:  www.nasa.gov

Photo credit:  www.news.yahoo.com