NASA shares an image of floating smiley robots living on the International Space Station


There’s no shortage of sci-fi robotic companions – Luke Skywalker’s robotic pals C3PO and R2D2 and Jimmy Neutron’s robotic dog Goddard spring to mind.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have real robot friends.

Astrobee and Project CIMON are two initiatives developing robots to assist space crews in microgravity operations.

Astrobee, designed by NASA, is a group of three cube-shaped robots that fly around the ISS, can grip tubes to stabilize themselves and have cameras to “see” their surroundings.

The set of three robots is aptly named Queen, Honey and Bumble as they “Busy bees” on board the ISS to carry out simple tasks such as inventories to relieve the astronauts.

Astrobee’s robots can be operated manually by teams on Earth or programmed to work autonomously.

Replacing an existing group of floating bots, Queen, Honey and Bumble serve as upgrades on the ISS.

SPHERES, the first group of flying bots aboard the ISS, was deployed and deployed in 2006 over 500 hours next to astronauts.

One of Astrobee’s aspirations is to develop software advanced enough for the robots to be able to do Manage spacecraft maintenance on Gateway, the unmanned space outpost due to launch in 2024.

It’s a lofty goal, like the ISS has never been free in its 22-year history and is dependent on people.

Meanwhile, the German-funded CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile companiON) project has developed a similar robot that’s a bit more humanoid.

Cimon responds to verbal commands from astronauts and features an LCD screen to display the bot’s “face”.

Like the Astrobee-Bots, Cimon can move about the station himself and perform basic tasks on behalf of the astronauts.

Both the first and second generation Cimon were brought to the ISS by Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX.

Part of Cimon’s initiative is helping astronauts cope with the isolation that comes with being in space – after all, all the astronauts they know live miles below them on Earth.

Astronauts can talk to Cimon the way earth-bound people talk to Alexa or Siri—whether they’re having a conversation or accessing the computer’s information database.

Levitating robots are carving out a special niche onboard the ISS, serving as astronauts’ right-handed robots.

This article originally appeared on The sun and is reproduced here with permission. NASA shares an image of floating smiley robots living on the International Space Station


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