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Friday, July 10, 2020

Explained: What is Fedor the robot?

Russia’s humanoid robot has just reached International Space Station. What is he supposed to do?

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: August 28, 2019 6:54:41 am
Fedor robot is seen before being loaded into a Soyuz capsule to be launched by a new Soyuz 2.1a rocket from the launch pad at Russia’s space facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. (AP)

On Tuesday, the humanoid robot Fedor, the first from Russia sent into orbit, reached the International Space Station. Short for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research, Fedor can be operated manually by ISS astronauts wearing robotic exoskeleton suits. The robot mirrors their movements.

Fedor stands 180 cm tall and weighs 160 kg. It copies human movements, which will enable it to perform tasks that are risky for astronauts strapped onto an exoskeleton.

In an interview on the website of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Fedor developer Yevgeny Dudorov said space is the most important industry for using robots, a dangerous environment for humans. “The ideal option for an assistant, and in some cases a complete replacement for a person, is an anthropomorphic robot,” Dudorov said.

Fedor has his own Instagram and Twitter accounts. He was sent in an unmanned Soyuz capsule, which failed to dock at the ISS on Saturday. After another attempt on Tuesday was successful, Fedor tweeted: “Sorry for the delay. Got stuck in traffic. Am ready to carry on with work.”

Fedor, who will copy human movements, will help with high-risk tasks at the ISIS until September 7, when he is scheduled to return. Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin was quoted as telling Interfax news agency that Fedor could help in tests on Russia’s new manned transport ship under development, the Federatsiya, or a spacewalk to work on the outside of the ISS. “That’s what he’s being created for. We don’t really need him inside the station,” Rogozin was quoted as saying.

While Fedor is Russia’s first robot in space, other countries have previously sent theirs. In 2011, NASA sent up Robonaut 2, a humanoid developed with General Motors that had a similar aim of working in high-risk environments, AFP reported. Robonaut 2 was flown back to Earth in 2018 after experiencing technical problems. In 2013, Japan sent up a small robot called Kirobo, developed with Toyota. It was able to hold conversations in Japanese.

Soyuz capsules are normally manned, but this time no humans were travelling in order to test a new emergency rescue system. The spacecraft blasted off last Thursday from a Russian spaceport in southern Kazakhstan, with Fedor in the commander’s seat. AFP reported that the robot was heard saying “Let’s go. Let’s go,” during the launch, repeating the phrase used by the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin.

The ship was carrying scientific and medical equipment, and components for the space station’s life-support system, as well as food, medicines and personal hygiene products for crew members.

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Tip for Reading List: Key Figures in Paris Liberation

The Liberation of Paris, the military battle which freed the city after over four years of Nazi rule, is well documented as one of the key events of the Second World War. Political scientist Jean Edward Smith of Marshall University has now examined the three military figures who held the fate of Paris in their hands.

The Liberation of Paris: How Eisenhower, de Gaulle, and von Choltitz Saved the City of Light explores two sets of events in the critical moments before Paris’s recapture. First is the discarding of the original American plan of heading towards Germany bypassing Paris, and turning towards the city itself instead. This was after French general Charles de Gaulle convinced American military leader Dwight Eisenhower, Smith writes; this helped de Gaulle’s ascendancy to the top political office in France after the War, while at the same time denying French communists the chance to arrive on the scene before him.

The second event is the defiance of Hitler’s orders to turn Paris into a “field of ruins” by the German general Dietrich von Choltitz. Von Choltitz was a trusted aide deputed to Paris by Hitler himself. Through careful sabotage of the Third Reich’s orders, and disregarding a very real threat to his family, von Choltitz secured a bloodless handover of Paris to the Allies, Smith writes.

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