Robonaut 2 will be the first humanoid robot in space, taking up residence at the International Space Station once it is delivered by the shuttle Discovery in November.
The goal is to build a robot that can help astronauts with their daily tasks, especially those that are repetitive or especially dangerous. A humanoid robot will not require a redesign of interfaces and tools that are already in place for the space station's carbon-based hominid residents.
This robot is already doing outreach before launch. Robonaut 2 has been interacting with the world, 140 characters at a time, since last week. On Aug. 4, 10 a.m. Central Time, R2 will be hosting a special twitter interview.
To ask a question, tweet @AstroRobonaut and include the hashtag #4R2.
Okay, so messages from Robonaut 2 are more like the first-person messages from our beloved and dearly departed @MarsPhoenix (that is, written by a flesh-and-bone person), rather than the daily updates of a sentient being, so put your Turing tests away. Nevertheless, this is a great way for those working on the project to share their excitement with the world. And, let's face it, we do get a little bit attached to those little robots, even when we know deep down that they aren't really talking to us.
I, for one, welcome our tweeting robot overlords.
Image: Robonaut 2 gets to grips with Twitter (NASA/Joe Bibby)