Friday, November 04, 2011

Robonaut Tripped Up During Station Tests

The first humanoid robot to fly in space went through a workout aboard the International Space Station today, but the checkout was halted after a few minor problems cropped up.

Working in the U.S. Destiny laboratory, outpost commander Mike Fossum took part in motion tests aimed at exercising Robonaut's hands, neck and wrists. However, the tests were stopped when neck and wrist movements were not carried out as originally planned.

NASA robot operator Phil Strawser said joint movements in the weightless space environment have proven to be different than those performed in normal gravity on Earth. Consequently, software used to operate the robot needs to be "fine-tuned," he said.

A planned handshake between the station commander and Robonaut was deferred until a later date.

The motion tests were the first to exercise the robot's neck and wrist joints. The tests are part of a series of exercises to check out each of the robot's joints. Initial arm tests were conducted Oct. 13. The robot was launched to the station aboard shuttle Discovery in February.

Robonaut is designed to take over simple, repetitive tasks such as replacing filters aboard the station. Ultimately, the robot may take on dangerous spacewalking maintenance work outside the outpost.

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