The Space Shuttle mission STS-133 is mainly known for being the last flight of this program, done by “Discovery” starting February, the 24th, 2011. As many missions of the program, it carried out a number of different purposes and the six men crew (Alvin Drew, Nicole Stott, Eric Boe, Steven Lindsey, Michael Barratt and Steve Bowen) worked hard along the specialists already aboard of the ISS.
There was another worker. A very quiet one. NASA’s Robonaut2 (also called R2).
For a robot fan like me, that was the most important thing. R2 underwent a long list of test, both mechanical and operational, in order to prove its capabilities assisting astronauts inside and outside the International Space Station.
It’s important to state that R2 is still a working prototype, is not ready to be fully operational and it will never be in tis actual state of development. But this experience and the data collected by this mission will be a great help to create the next generation of robonauts.
Looking at the more ambitious project scheduled for the near future (i.e. Mars travel, the comeback on the Moon and the private mining project on a asteroid) the need for more advanced and specialized robots makes robonaut’s project look more and more promising.
We’re still far away from AI driven robots but expert systems are already available and that could be enough for stimulate affordable projects for the next ten years. With huge investments on the line by public agencies like DARPA this piece of future looks at hand’s reach.