Space walks are dramatic, as the installation of the Destiny module on the International Space Station in February demonstrated. A micrometeorite impact, a snag, a wayward tool or even a misstep can spell doom for an astronaut. As the station takes shape, however, construction and repair will demand more of these extravehicular activities (EVAs). One remedy: let the android do it. At least that's the plan of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists working on Robonaut.
The idea of maintenance robots originated after a 1990 study concluded that an orbital station would require 75 percent more space-walking time than originally planned. Keeping the station operational "would take more time than we had astronauts," explains Chris Culbert, chief of the robotic systems technology branch at the NASA Johnson Space Center. "That sent us on a path of finding robotic ways to do the maintenance."
This article was originally published with the title I, Robonaut.