Astronauts at the International Space Station unpacked Robonaut on Tuesday, 2 1/2 weeks after its arrival via shuttle Discovery. NASA broadcast the humorous unveiling ceremony Wednesday. American Catherine Coleman and Italian Paolo Nespoli pried off the lid of the robot's packing box, as though they were opening a coffin. TV cameras showed lots of foam inside, but no robot. Robonaut — also known as R2 — was spotted a minute later in front of a work station. "I'd like to introduce you to the newest member of our crew," Coleman said. "We're going to see what Robonaut can do." In a Twitter update, R2 announced: "Check me out. I'm in space!" A NASA employee on the ground posted the tweet.
Nespoli attached NASA's waist-high R2 to a fixed pedestal, where it will remain with its fists clenched and its arms folded against its chest until testing begins in May. The robotic team at Johnson Space Center in Houston wants to see how R2 performs in weightlessness. The robot is intended as an astronaut helper, inside the space station, in the decade ahead.