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"If I had to get a new Ph.D. now, I'd get it in polymer engineering - the manipulation of matter."
- Bart Kosko

Repair Robots  
  Autonomous robots that carry out maintenance functions on a space ship.  

When The Invincible, a heavy cruiser powered by photon drive, came within range of a star system worthy of exploration, the crew was brought out of hibernation and the ship prepared for their use.

Faint rattling noises came from inside the hull as if swarms of tiny animals were busily scurrying about scratching the metal walls with their sharp little claws. This was the sign that the repair robots had started out on their rounds, checking the solidity of the braces of the ship's framework; making sure that the hull had not been damaged anywhere and that all seams were still welded tight. The entire ship came to life, filled with myriad noises and activities . . . only the crew had not yet awakened...
From The Invincible, by Stanislaw Lem.
Published by Poland in 1954
Additional resources -

Interesting early use of this concept; we all remember the helpful droids from Star Wars, like R2D2.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Invincible
  More Ideas and Technology by Stanislaw Lem
  Tech news articles related to The Invincible
  Tech news articles related to works by Stanislaw Lem

Repair Robots-related news articles:
  - SRI International's Speedy, Ant-Sized Microrobot Swarm
  - Bridge-MINDER Repair Robot
  - SPIDER Repair Robots From Lockheed Martin Blimps
  - Rolls Royce 'Cockroach-Sized' Repair Robots To Crawl Inside Engines

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Robots Help People Get Dressed, As Predicted In 1931

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