NASA has released an image of the International Space Station's (ISS) new residents - several cube-shaped robots known as Astrobees.
They arrived on April 17 and are due to perform menial tasks such as sensor testing and sound level monitoring to give astronauts more time to do things that only humans can do. It is also hoped they will be able to perform maintenance tasks when humans aren’t present and in areas they cannot access.
The Astrobee system was designed and built at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley specifically for use on the ISS. Each robot is one foot square with integrated cameras and sensors as well as a perching arm for grasping handrails to conserve energy or assist astronauts. The design of the arm was based in part on winning entrants to an open innovation contest hosted by the space agency.
In the photo, NASA astronaut Anne McClain is performing the first tests on an Astrobee called Bumble – a simple hardware checkout for both the bot and its docking module. There are three Astrobees on the ISS, called Honey, Queen and Bumble.
These aren’t the first robots to be put to work on the space station. Astronauts have worked with SPHERES robots during the last decade, but these are going to be fully replaced by Astrobees once testing has been completed.
According to the space agency, robots will play key roles in its mission to return to the moon as well as other deep space missions.
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