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NASA's robotic astronaut goes live in space

NASA's robotic astronaut goes live in space

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The future of space travel may not be manned. NASA's "Robonaut 2," a robotic astronaut, has today gone online at the International Space Station...

The future of space travel may not be manned. NASA's "Robonaut 2," a robotic astronaut, has today gone online at the International Space Station.

Robonaut 2 arrived at the space station in the fall of 2010 via NASA’s space shuttle Discovery. Part of NASA's motivation is to experiment with how the machine fares in zero gravity, but its ultimate goal is to assist station personell with their tasks. Who's to blame NASA for thinking about safety with so much debris floating around in orbit?

The robot plugs into the station's (solar) power system, but will get a lithium battery pack after it eventually gets legs and starts moving around, a NASA spokesperson said. Robonaut is now updating thousands of Twitter admirers on its daily activities.

I'm intrigued with the potential for robots to become smarter. Cloud computing makes it possible for a unit to store its learnings, so that a future model can pick up where it left off. It also becomes much easier to beef up compute power and memory for faster processing or computation.

Editor's note: I work for ScaleOut Software, a company that makes cloud-based solutions.

NASA's Robonaut 2 may seem like a cute novelty now, but it is a project with great potential. Robotics could be a major growth industry in the not so distant future. Indeed, one of the original Microsoft employees, who was product manager when Windows first shipped, recently left the company to found a robotics start-up called Hoaloha Robotics.

Robots can help astronauts in space, but they also can be used for things such as assistive care. Let's hope that NASA's technology incubation experiences will trickle down into private industry as it has so many times in the past.

(Image credit: NASA)

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David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure