NASA is making plans to send their Robonaut (or R2) robotic assistant to the International Space Station where it will become a permanent fixture, in preparation for eventually working alongside humans be it in space-based research activity or back on Earth in manufacturing settings.
R2, which was developed by NASA in tandem with General Motors (GM) weighs 300 pounds and consists of a head, torso and two arms and two hands. The soon to be ISS denizen will hitch a ride on the space shuttle Discovery as part of NASA's STS-133 mission, currently scheduled for September 16, 2010. This is scheduled to be the penultimate space shuttle mission.
R2 will be tested in microgravity and subjected to various radiation and electromagnetic interference environments.
According to John Olson, director of NASA's Exploration Systems Integration Office at NASA Headquarters in Washington, "This project exemplifies the promise that a future generation of robots can have both in space and on Earth, not as replacements for humans but as companions that can carry out key supporting roles. The combined potential of humans and robots is a perfect example of the sum equaling more than the parts. It will allow us to go farther and achieve more than we can probably even imagine today."