The robot, dubbed “Fedor,” will put its skills to the test over the next two weeks as it assists the crew aboard the ISS, doing tasks that are deemed highly risky for humans. The Russian bot’s name is short for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research.
Fedor echoed the words of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, during the launch on Thursday. “Let’s go. Let’s go,” the robot said.
It’s the first Skybot F-850 to be sent into orbit by Russia, following NASA‘s Robonaut 2, which went to space in 2011 for a similar purpose. Japan did the same with a smaller robot called Kirobo in 2013.
“The robot’s main purpose it to be used in operations that are especially dangerous for humans onboard spacecraft and in outer space,” Russian space agency Roscosmos said after the robot’s launch.
The robot was launched in an unmanned rocket, a Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft, at around 6:38 a.m. Moscow time from Baikonur Cosmodrome, a spaceport located in Kazakhstan and leased by Russia.
Fedor is set to dock with the ISS on Saturday.
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While this type of aircraft is typically launched with a human pilot, it went without in order to test a new emergency rescue system, Channel News Asia reports.
Standing at five feet, nine inches tall and weighing in at 352 pounds, Fedor can mimic human movements in low gravity — a skill meant to provide human astronauts with remote-controlled help.
“That’s connecting and disconnecting electric cables using standard items, from a screwdriver and a spanner to a fire extinguisher,” Alexander Bloshenko, the Russian space agency’s director for prospective programs and science, said in televised comments ahead of the launch.
Eventually, Bloshenko added, the robot will perform dangerous activities like space walks. Its legs will be immobilized while on the space station for this mission.
Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s space agency chief, shared footage of Fedor using its human-like hands to shoot guns on Twitter in 2017.
Rogozin sought to assure people at the time that Russia is ” not creating a Terminator, but artificial intelligence that will be of great practical significance in various fields,” according to The Independent.
Fedor even has its own Twitter account, which boasts over 5,000 followers. IT describes itself as “an assistant to the ISS crew.”
“Everything is normal,” a tweet posted on his account said a few hours into Fedor’s flight.
The ISS is a joint project of the space agencies of the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada.
Much of Twitter is feeling a bit uneasy about gun-shooting robots the size of humans, with one person tweeting: “This is the end,” and another writing: “So not one person in Russia has seen The Terminator?” Several people referred to the robot as “creepy.”
Another Twitter user made an ominous statement, wrapping up most of the social media users’ sentiments: “What could possibly go wrong?”
—With files from The Associated Press and ReutersFollow @meaghanwray
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