Concept art of ISS

Kremlin to send gunslinging androids to ISS

Image credit: Dreamstime

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, is reportedly making arrangements to send an entirely robotic crew into space next year to join human astronauts on the international space station (ISS)

Robotic systems have been in space for longer than humans have. They have obvious advantages over human astronauts, such as not needing oxygen, sleep, food, or heat. It is also not such a scarring tragedy if disaster strikes and destroys a rocket carrying machines.

The world’s largest space agencies use nonhuman robots, such as rovers, to explore beyond Earth and in 2011 Nasa sent a humanoid robot, the Robotnaut 2, to the international space station (ISS) to work with human astronauts. The dextrous, remote-controlled robot was capable of maintenance tasks such as changing air filters. More recently, Nasa engineers have been refining a large humanoid robot, Valkyrie, which was originally designed for disaster relief and is now being optimised for space environments.

Now, according to a RIA Novosti report uncovered by Defense One, Roscosmos has approved plans to fly a pair of Fedor robots to the ISS in 2019.

The robotic astronauts are a pair of Fedor (Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research) androids, which made their debut as headline-grabbing autonomous, balanced robots capable of firing guns using their hands. Much speculation has surrounded their purpose, with suggestions that they could form a robot army or colonise the Moon. Former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Rogozin denied that the country was working on a ‘Terminator’, and said that the robot would have practical applications in a range of fields.

According to the report, the robots will unusually be flying as crew, rather than as cargo in the transport compartment. They are not, however, expected to pilot their Soyuz rocket, which will be controlled from the ground.

“[Fedor] was initially designed as a proof of concept – and the space role for this robot was implied from the beginning. It does make for a very effective military ‘android’ in official videos where it’s shooting guns, but ultimately it’s a dual-use work frame for hard-to-do projects like working in space or in other hazardous environments,” Sam Bendett, a research analyst at CAN, told Defense One.

The Fedor robot has many abilities requiring strength and dexterity comparable to that of humans; as well as shooting, it is capable of driving, drilling, fist-bumping, lifting heavy weights and push-ups.

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