Space is about to get its first humanoid from planet Earth. Robonaut 2 — affectionately known as R2 — is hitching a one-way ride to the International Space Station this week aboard the final flight of space shuttle Discovery. It's the first humanoid robot ever bound for space, a $2.5 million mechanical and electrical marvel that NASA hopes one day will assist flesh-and-bone astronauts in orbit.
Imagine, its creators say, a future where Robonaut could take over space station cleaning duties; spend hours outside in the extreme heat and cold, patiently holding tools for spacewalking astronauts; and handle emergencies like toxic leaks or fires. For now, R2 — a collaboration between NASA and General Motors — exists only from the waist up. It measures 3 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 330 pounds. Each arm is 2 feet 8 inches long. Legs are still in the works.