Roskosmos plans first robotic astronauts

Two robots could be crew on the International Space Station by the end of 2019. Credit: NASA/Crew of STS-132.

Robotic astronauts in space: does it get any more science-fiction than that?

Well this high-tech, future-forward concept could be on the horizon as early as next year according to a source close to national space agency Roskosmos.

RIA Novosti reports a preliminary plan to send a pair of humanoid robots into space has been approved for August 2019. The androids would become the first non-human crew members of the International Space Station under the plan.

Robots in space are not unusual to space exploration of the 21st century. The US has robotic rovers on Mars, while China has a lunar lander on the moon. However, this project would mark the first time robots fly to the space station as crew members. The plan would see the robots, named FEDOR for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research, arrive to the station in an unmanned Soyuz rocket.

According to the source, the idea to send two FEDORs into space is regarded as “a good PR-move, which should show the possibility of Roskosmos to quickly achieve breakthroughs in cosmonautics.”

The FEDOR was created in 2014 as part of a project by the Foundation for Advanced Studies. Back then the android was called Avatar. A new name and new skills have resulted over the past four years – including the robot’s ability to autonomously shoot with two hands, drive a car, sit on a string, work with a drill, move up the stairs and overcome obstacles.

In addition, the robot can be controlled remotely with a special suit worn by the operator. In this mode the robot acts as an avatar and further removes the risk to human life.

It had previously been announced the robot would be the first to fly on the new Russian spacecraft Federation: a partially reusable piloted spacecraft developed to support low Earth orbit and lunar operations.

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