Robonaut to Get Legs: One Big Step For Robotkind

PHOTO: Robonaut is good to go after the power soak. The red ribbon is to remind the crew not to use its arms as handles.

The robots invading space are making some big leaps -- literally.

Earlier this month, Kirobo, the world's first talking robot astronaut and Japan's gift to the International Space Station, said some of his first words. Now, Robonaut, who has been on the space station for two and a half years, is about to go on a walkabout.

NASA will launch legs for Robonaut on the next SpaceX mission. The legs will allow him to move through the space station using toe-like fixtures to latch on for chores. Right now, his torso, head and arms are anchored to a platform, which means astronauts have to bring tasks to him.

Astronaut Rick Mastracchio will attach Robonaut's legs when they arrive in space. The SpaceX launch window opens Jan. 17 and closes Feb. 16, 2014.

Helping the Astronauts

Rob Ambrose, who heads the robotics program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, said a mobile Robonaut makes him more useful as a crew member on the space station, allowing him to take over some of the tedious maintenance tasks.

"If I ask anyone I am with, 'What would you like a robot to do?' Kids always say two things: 'My homework' and 'Clean my room,'" Ambrose told ABC News. "Adults usually mention 'Clean the kitchen or the bathroom.'"

Astronauts on the space station spend a lot of time cleaning and keeping up their home above Earth. Yes, the toilet in particular takes a lot of maintenance. Ambrose said he has gotten a long list from the astronauts about what they want an robot to do for them.

"Some of their tasks are just boring -- holding a sensor in front of an air filter and move it over after about five minutes. Then repeat," he explained.

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