Mission Monday – New robot crew members aboard space station

The ISS recently added a few new crew members. Named Astrobee, the three free-flying, cube-shaped robots are designed to help scientists and engineers develop and test technologies for use in microgravity.

These robots are going to assist astronauts with routine chores and give ground controllers additional eyes and ears on the ISS. The autonomous robots, powered by fans and vision-based navigation, perform crew monitoring, sampling, logistics management, and accommodate up to three investigations.

The three, 12.5 inch cube robots, are named Honey, Bumble and Queen. They can dock themselves, allowing for a completely autonomous recharge.

Each of the Astrobee robots also carries a perching arm which allows them to conserve energy by grasping onto station handrails.

Astrobee follows in the footsteps of the SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellite) robots, which have been used on station for more than a decade.

As humans push into deep space to explore more of our solar system, robots will be right alongside, performing critical functions to help space explorers with day to day tasks, and watch over the spacecraft when astronauts are away.

There are only so many hours in a day, and with so much work to do in space, it pays to have a helping hand…or cube!

Astrobee is the next step in developing robots that will aid astronauts on their return mission to the Moon and eventually, on their journey to Mars and beyond!

Watch the IEEE Spectrum video below showcase one of Bumble’s first autonomous flights onboard the International Space Station!

Want to know more about what’s happening on station? Check out our latest blog post on growing radishes in space!

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