Russian Space Agency Roscosmos’ Soyuz MS-14 module finally docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in a second attempt (nearly 72 hours after aborting its original attempt to dock). Soyuz MS-14 lifted off on August 22nd aboard the Soyuz 2.1a rocket which was a test flight for the carrier rocket. Earlier the rocket was used to launch only cargo ships and automatic spacecraft.
What makes this launch special and news-worthy, is the presence of a humanoid robot named Skybot F-850. Soyuz MS-14 is a crew ship, but on this mission, Skybot sat in the captain’s seat. If you’re thinking that Skybot was controlling the spacecraft, then you’re wrong. This mission was unpiloted and Skybot has different objectives on this mission.
The robot is meant to measure and analyze launch vibrations, accelerations, and other factors that might affect the astronauts in the spacecraft. Basically, the robot is going to verify whether the newly added upgrades to the Soyuz are working fine and whether the conditions are suitable for sending astronauts aborad the next mission.
The robot is also called FEDOR (an acronym for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research). This robot among others like it was developed at the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects for rescue operations (but it might as well do other complex tasks). The robot has been rumored to be able to shoot automatic weapons upon being instructed to do so.
Addressing the rumors related to FEDOR, Dmitry Rogozin, Director General of Roscosmos, said in a tweet said, “We are not creating a terminator but artificial intelligence which will have great practical importance in various fields.”
Space.com has reported that cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov will work with the Skybot for the next five days to carry out a few tests within the ISS. These tests will include remotely operating the robot, i.e. using the robot in ‘avatar’ mode where it mimics the actions of its operator. Skybot will be later strapped back to Soyuz and sent back to Earth. The ship is scheduled to undock on September 6.
It should be noted that Skybot F-850 can answer a variety of questions as well as carry out conversations on numerous topics. Also, it has a sense of humor, as its creators have said.
In a statement, Alexander Bloshenko, a Russian space agency science adviser, remarking the robot’s ability to mimic actions of other cosmonauts, said, “In the future, this will minimize the risk associated with the cosmonaut’s work in outer space, that which they perform while organizing repairs on the ISS and other spacecraft.”
The next Soyuz crew is scheduled to launch on September 25 aboard Soyuz-FG booster. This crew will consist of commander Oleg Skripochka, Jessica Meir (NASA Flight engineer) and Hazzaa Ali Almansoori (UAE guest cosmonaut ).