NASA Is Finally Removing This Creepy And Broken Robot Astronaut From The ISS


Things didn’t really work out.

16 FEB 2018

The International Space Station is a science facility, so it’s no surprise that experiments occasionally fail.

Most of the time, however, they don’t involve weird robots – like Robonaut, the robotic astronaut NASA sent up with the STS-133 mission in 2011.

The golden-helmeted figure has been out of action since 2015 after its hardware went awry. And now, finally, it’s being sent back to Earth for repairs.

A project NASA has worked on since 1996, Robonaut – developed with General Motors – is quite a marvel.

Originally, it consisted of a humanoid torso (and wears an astronaut-style helmet, neatly eliminating the uncanny valley), with five jointed fingers on each hand so that it can complete tasks like humans do.

robonaut aboard the iss 2(NASA)

Initially the torso was doing stationary work in the Destiny laboratory, performing simple tasks such as taking air flow readings and cleaning hand rails.

But NASA never planned that Robonaut would remain still, and in 2014 the robot was fitted with a pair of new, wiggly climbing legs designed to let it move around the space station – which somehow made it look very disconcerting.


The problems started because Robonaut wasn’t designed for easy modularity; putting the legs on required significant core hardware upgrades and a new wiring interface – work the astronauts weren’t trained to do.

It was expect that the operation would take them 20 hours, all up. It ended up taking them 40, and almost immediately things started going wrong.

First, when Robonaut was rebooted, Johnson Space Center couldn’t see its live feed.