Russia's first humanoid robot Fedor is now in space

During its 14-day space mission Fedor will conduct scientific tasks to help out humans in space

Photo: Twitter The Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research, also known as Fedor

Yesterday Russia launched an unmanned rocket carrying a life-size humanoid robot that will spend 14 days learning to assist astronauts on the International Space Station. Named Fedor, for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research with identification number Skybot F850, the robot is the first ever sent up by Russia.

A Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft blasted off at 6:38am Moscow time from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and is now set to dock with the space station on Saturday and stay till 7 September. Normally, Soyuz ships are manned on such trips, but on Thursday no humans are travelling in order to test a new emergency rescue system. Instead of cosmonauts, Fedor was strapped into a specially adapted pilot's seat, with a small Russian flag in his hand.

"Let's go. Let's go," the robot was heard as 'saying' during launch, apparently repeating the famous phrase by first man in space Yury Gagarin.

The android will greet the crew stationed in orbit with a specially uploaded message, while at the same time transmitting back to Earth telemetry data and parameters related to flight safety.

The silvery anthropomorphic robot stands 1.80m tall and weighs 160kg. He copies human movements perfectly, a key skill that allows it to remotely help astronauts or even people on Earth to carry out tasks while the humans are strapped into an exoskeleton. But now he will trial those manual skills in very low gravity.

On board, the robot will perform tasks supervised by Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, who joined the ISS last month, and will wear an exoskeleton in a series of experiments scheduled for later this month.

"That's connecting and disconnecting electric cables, using standard items from a screwdriver and a spanner to a fire extinguisher," the Russian space agency's director for prospective programmes and science, Alexander Bloshenko, said in televised comments ahead of the launch. But according to Yevgeny Dudorov, the executive director of the robot’s manufacturer Android Technology, Fedor will also take part in about five or six scientific tasks, which are kept in secret.

As Bloshenko told RIA Novosti state news agency such robots will eventually carry out dangerous operations such as space walks in the future, as well. 

"In the future we plan that this machine will also help us conquer deep space," he added.

On the website of one of the state backers of the project, the Foundation of Advanced Research Projects, Fedor is, furthermore, described as potentially useful on Earth for working in high radiation environments, de-mining and tricky rescue missions.

Still, Fedor is not the first robot to go into space. In 2011, NASA sent up Robonaut 2, a humanoid robot developed with General Motors and a similar aim of working in high-risk environments. It was, however, flown back to Earth in 2018 after experiencing technical problems. In the meantime, in 2013, Japan sent up a small robot called Kirobo along with the ISS's first Japanese space commander. Developed with Toyota, it was able to hold conversations - albeit only in Japanese.

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