In an effort to provide more assistance to those at the International Space Station, NASA is sending along some worker bees to lend a helping hand.
Dubbed Astrobees, the flying robots were developed and built at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. A pair will be sent to the ISS later this month to help with crew monitoring, sample retrieval for research projects, and other routine tasks.
In addition to freeing crew members up for more significant work, the robots, which will be controlled back on Earth, will provide insight into the inner workings of the space station. They can also help keep an eye on key environmental conditions such as air quality. The Astrobee took several years to develop and utilizes cameras and sensors to navigate, capture data, and provide monitoring information. It also features an embedded touchscreen, speaker, and microphone, as well a mechanical arm that allows it to use several tools.
The cube-shaped units use a battery to power a fan-based propulsion system. The Astrobees are based on NASA’s first-generation robotic assistant, SPHERES, which arrived at the space station in 2006.
They will also be used in conjunction with CIMON, an artificial intelligence robot developed by Airbus and Germany’s DLR space agency and powered by IBM’s Watson supercomputer. CIMON, which has a propulsion system similar to the Astrobees, arrived on the ISS last year to help with research projects. Its AI capabilities enable CIMON to see, hear, talk, and comprehend – learning and developing additional capabilities the longer it’s around crew members.
Robots learning from humans as they hover around them on a space station – never seen that movie before.