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Space robot's self-repair means fewer spacewalks


Canadian robot 'Dextre'. A NASA photo

TORONTO (PTI): A robot is replacing a faulty camera on the International Space Station's Canadian robotic arm, marking the first time a job done by spacewalking astronauts is being carried out robotically.

The Canadian robot, called Dextre, is currently in the middle of a week-long repair job to replace cameras on the Canadarm2 and its mobile base.

Together, Dextre, Canadarm2 and the base make up the space station's robotic Mobile Servicing System, making this the first ever robot self-repair in space, the Canadian Space Agency said.

"We've had to change cameras before, but we had to do it during spacewalks," Mathieu Caron, mission control supervisor at the Canadian Space Agency, told CBCNews.ca.

This time, astronauts are barely involved in the work that began last Thursday and is scheduled to wrap up this week.

The robots are controlled remotely from the Canadian Space Agency headquarters in Longueuil, Quebec, and NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas.

Dextre is taking a camera on the Canadarm2 that has grown hazy and is moving it to the mobile base to replace a completely broken camera. It will then install a new, spare camera on the Canadarm2.

The cameras are among 11 on the Mobile Servicing System that are used to control the robots and perform surveys outside the space station.

The astronauts' only involvement in the operation was to push the spare camera into an airlock so Dextre could grab it.

It's the first time a job like this has been done robotically, but it certainly won't be the last, Caron said space agencies are increasingly relying on robots instead of humans to do work outside the space station whenever possible.

"Using the Canadarm2 and Dextre reduces the overall number of spacewalks, definitely," Caron said.

Dextre was installed on the space station in 2008; it has been used whenever possible for repair tasks and jobs such as unloading supplies sent to the station aboard unmanned space cargo ships.

Tags:

Space  Robot  Sspacewalk  ISS  Astronaut  

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