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28 Jul, 2019 16:25

‘Simply Fedor, for friends’: Russian space robot tweets about rigorous drills ahead of launch to ISS

‘Simply Fedor, for friends’: Russian space robot tweets about rigorous drills ahead of launch to ISS

Next month, a space ship will deliver a non-human crew member to the ISS. The Russian robotic assistant has a busy work schedule training at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, but manages to squeeze in time for his new Twitter account.

The anthropomorphic Russian robot has been around for several years now, touted as a demonstrator for Russian robotic technology and future helper in manned space exploration. It seems FEDOR (Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research) has matured enough to graduate from showing off his akimbo shooting skills and receive a place aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Last Tuesday, he arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with a new name: Skybot F850. Journalists were puzzled by the name change, but the head of Russia’s space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, said the robot “was the one who asked” for it.

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The robot has been busy getting ready for the Soyuz MS-14 launch, which is scheduled for August 22. At least that’s what he’s been saying on his new Twitter account, where he posts photos of his training and occasionally jokes around.

“I’ve heard the Americans plan to send a female astronaut to the Moon in 2024,” one of his tweets reads. “I’d like to be there and greet her with flowers.”

Skybot “simply Fedor for friends” F850 seems to have a full plate between checking on the rocket assembly shop and trying out an external power source. “On Friday, I felt a surge of strength and energy. Although, in fact, we checked the work from an external power source. Impressions are great, no discomfort,” he tweeted two days ago.

Today, Fedor shared with his followers how he deals with his own ‘bottle challenge’.
“I learned to open a bottle of mineral water and bring it to the technological opening, which you call mouth,” he said.

All joking aside, the robotic companion is more of a remotely-controlled substitute for a human than an autonomous robot. Its exact capabilities and tasks on the ISS remain somewhat of a mystery.

It will probably be able to flip switches like the Robonaut 2, the NASA/General Motors robot with a humanoid torso and a golden head. It spent eight years on the ISS before being sent back home after the attachment of a set of lower limbs delivered from Earth caused malfunctions.

The Russian robot also reportedly has a voice user interface, much like CIMON, a talking personal assistant developed by IBM and Airbus and sent to the space station last year.

Skybot’s intended operator, Aleksandr Skvortsov, went to the ISS last week aboard the Soyuz-MS-13 spacecraft. When the August resupply launch reunites the two, we hope Skybot’s first response to a command won’t be: “I’m sorry, Alex, but I’m afraid I can’t do that.”