Watch the First-Ever Man-Robot Handshake in Space

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 16 2012 12:13 PM

Watch the First-Ever Man-Robot Handshake in Space

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The International Space Station.

Photo by NASA via Getty Images

For the first time, a man-robot handshake has taken place in space. Yesterday, the humanoid automaton Robonaut 2 pressed the (metal) flesh with American astronaut Daniel Burbank. Burbank says that the handshake was “very firm.”

The handshake was part of several range-of-motion tests for Robonaut 2, which has been aboard ISS for nearly a year. NASA hopes that Robonaut 2 will eventually be able to do chores around the house to free astronauts from some of the more mundane tasks. But that’s still in the future. IEEE Spectrum’s Automaton Blog explains:

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Well, it's great news that Robonaut can move his limbs, but it's going to take some practice before he's able to make a meaningful contribution to the crew by reducing their workload. Practice is what Robonaut is going to start doing next, using a taskboard where he can press buttons, flip switches, and use tools without risking accidental thruster firings, unexpected decompression, or arming of the railgun turrets or laser cannons.

Robonaut 2 also took the opportunity to sign “Hello, world.”

Because no robot story is complete without bad “robot overlord” jokes, Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers tweeted, “Now let's hope he's never heard of HAL9000, Skynet or Cylons.”

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. Follow her on Twitter.