Russia's first humanoid robot Fedor (Photo Source: Twitter)
A life-size humanoid robot, launched from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in late August, has successfully departed the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, after spending 10 days to assist astronauts with several manual skills in low gravity. Named Fedor, the robot was earlier scheduled to arrive on August 24, but got delayed after an aborted docking attempt.
However, a live translation from Russian space agency Roscosmos on Friday showed the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft leaving the ISS with researchers confirming that the ship would land in Kazakhstan overnight.
Fedor, short for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research, on August 22 blasted off in a Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft at 6:38 am Moscow time (0338 GMT) from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
During its 10-day-visit to the ISS, astronauts had tested Fedor's ability to mirror the movements of humans while they are wearing exoskeleton suits. The space agency said such robots will eventually carry out dangerous operations such as space walks in near future.
The August 22 launch was a fresh hitch for Russia's space programme, which has been hit by a series of recent setbacks including a manned launch failure in 2018. Fedor's return came shortly after President Vladimir Putin gave Roscosmos officials a dressing down over delayed work on a cosmodrome in Russia's Far East.
Soyuz ships are normally manned on such trips, but no human travelled this time in order to test a new emergency rescue system. Instead of cosmonauts, Fedor was strapped into a specially adapted pilot's seat, with a small Russian flag in his hand.
The silvery anthropomorphic robot stands 1.80 metres (5 foot 11 inches) tall and weighs 160 kilograms (353 pounds). Also, Fedor has Instagram and Twitter accounts that describe it as learning new skills such as opening a bottle of water.
On the website of one of the state backers of the project, the Foundation of Advanced Research Projects, Fedor is described as potentially useful on Earth for working in high radiation environments, de-mining and tricky rescue missions. Fedor was Russia's first humanoid robot to be sent into space, though similar technology has been sent by Japan and NASA.
In 2011, NASA sent up Robonaut 2, a humanoid robot developed with General Motors and a similar aim of working in high-risk environments. It was flown back to Earth in 2018 after experiencing technical problems.
In 2013, Japan sent up a small robot called Kirobo along with the ISS's first Japanese space commander. Developed with Toyota, it was able to hold conversations - albeit only in Japanese.