In less than three years, NASA aims to land a human-like robot on the Moon. Why? Because sending a robot is nearly $150 billion cheaper than sending a human astronaut.
Robonaut 2 (R2) was designed to help humans work and explore in space. "Working side by side with humans, or going where the risks are too great for people, Robonauts will expand our ability for construction and discovery,” reads NASA’s description of its robot program.
R2, which was funded in part by General Motors, doesn't have legs, but it will by the time it heads for the Moon. This week, the legless, fixed-pedestal R2 will take a trip on the Discovery space shuttle to the International Space Station.
R2's lower half is still in the design phase. NASA says it may take the form of a four-wheel rover, with legs for climbing through the ISS' corridors.
“[R2] will become the first dexterous humanoid robot in space, and the first U.S.-built robot on the space station,” NASA said. “But that will be just one small step for a robot and one giant leap for robot-kind.”