Not to be outdone by the Amerikanskis, Russian space scientists are working on SAR-400, a telepresence robot for use on the International Space Station. This development is proceeding in an apparent response to the USA's Robonaut 2.
Why they feel the need to keep up isn't clear to me, since we've lost the ability to send people into space, and are forced to beg for rides from them to low Earth orbit.
But, on the bright side, more robots! Which has to be a good thing, da?
(Russian documentary on SAR-400)
The Russian Space Agency is testing the robot in mock training stations based on Mir, where it has already tightened screws and opened hatches. The robotís control is precise enough to play a game of chess, but it will take more time and testing before it will be fully operational, said Sergei Avdeyev, a cosmonaut and engineer. ďAt this point it is important to synchronize the movements of the robot and the operator. Only when the operator starts to feel he is in the frame of the robot as if in his own body, can we move on to the development of other control modes Ė autonomous, supervisory, etc.Ē said Oleg Saprykin, chief of manned space programs.
I'm really impressed by this cool SAR-400 animation, which shows how it might use its prehensile base to move around on an appropriately designed space craft.
As far as I know, the earliest mention of teleoperated space technology is from the 1957 novel Cities in Flight by James Blish. In the novel, human operators control robots deep in the interior of Jupiter - a living laboratory.
For a wild instant he had thought there was a man on Jupiter already; but as he pulled up just above the platform's roof, he realized that the moving thing inside was - of course - a robot; a misshapen, many-tentacled thing about twice the size of a man. It was working busily with bottles and flasks, of which it seemed to have thousands on benches and shelves all around it The whole enclosure was a litter of what Helmuth took to be chemical apparatus, and off to one side was an object which might have been a microscope...
The robot looked up at him and gesticulated with two or three tentacles...