The International Space Station should prepare for the arrival of its first android crew members, Russian state media says. The Roskosmos space agency has approved a preliminary plan to send a pair of humanoid robots called FEDOR into space in August 2019, according to “a source in the space and rocket industry” quoted by the RIA Novosti website.
Robots in space have become commonplace for space superpowers: the U.S. has two operational Mars rovers, China has a lunar lander on the moon and more on the way, and Russia has several now-defunct rovers on both the moon and Mars. In 2011, NASA sent Robonaut 2, a 330-pound manually controlled “humanoid” robot, to the ISS to look into how such robots might be used to perform simple, repetitive, or especially dangerous tasks.
But while previous robots were shot into space as cargo, Russia’s pair of FEDORs — the acronym stands for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research — will “fly for the first time to the ISS as crew members, and not as cargo in the transport compartment,” RIA Novosti wrote, adding that the robots will fly in an otherwise unmanned Soyuz rocket. State media called this a “good PR move.”
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