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Archive for Friday, March 4, 2011

Space robot’s debut moved up

March 4, 2011

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The 220-mile-high unveiling of R2, the first humanoid robot in space, is being moved up at the urging of the president of the United States.

Astronaut Catherine Coleman said Friday that she and the 11 other humans aboard the shuttle-station complex want to get R2 out of its packing material as soon as possible.

“In fact, we’re all pretty sure that we hear scratching from the inside there,” she said during a crew news conference.

Robonaut 2, better known as R2, flew to the International Space Station aboard Discovery and will stay behind when the shuttle leaves Monday. In a phone call to the two crews Thursday, President Barack Obama teased the astronauts for waiting to unpack the robot, urging them to “let him stretch his legs pretty soon.”

R2 seemed to like the idea. “I think he gave them some great advice about me,” the robot said in a Twitter update posted Friday by a human colleague.

NASA managers initially wanted to wait a couple of months before getting R2 out. But now Discovery is spending two extra days at the orbiting outpost so its crew can help unpack a new storage unit.

Coleman said she’s not sure if they will be able to unwrap R2 before Discovery leaves. For sure, the space station astronauts will get to it by late March, the lead flight director said later Friday.

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