Yesterday, after almost a year onboard the International Space Station, NASA's tweet-happy automaton astronaut (dubbed Robonaut 2 by its creators) did something no robot has ever done in space: it shook a human's hand. You're looking at what could go down as one of the most iconic grip-and-grins in history — human or otherwise.
The helper droid has been stationed onboard the ISS since February of last year. In that time, it's spent much of its stay boxed up in hibernation, only being powered on every few months to run it through various performance tests.
Yesterday, the Agency's helper bot was put through it paces one again; and in a series of checkouts designed to assess its range of motion and ability to sense various levels of force, it reached out and shook hands with space station commander Dan Burbank — the first man/machine grip and grin to ever take place in space.
"For the record, it was a firm handshake," Burbank said. "Very nice. Nice job on the programming and all the engineering. Quite an impressive robot."
According to NASA, Robonaut 2 has since been powered down and will be kept boxed away until further notice. With any luck, it won't be long before R2 has completed enough performance reviews to start helping the ISS crew out full time, as it was originally designed to do.