A NASA space robot is for sale. The C-3PO lookalike is called the Power Driven Articulated Dummy (PDAD) and it was developed for NASA by the IIT Research Institute in Chicago during the 1960s.
The robot is up for auction on RR Auction's Elite 100 Auction in Cambridge, Massachusetts to open on Sept. 15. Bids are expected to reach $80,000 and above.
The robotic relic, which was used by NASA in testing space suits, could simulate 35 basic human movements and was built with torque sensors at each joint that could gather data on the force of the pressurized suit on the human body. The dummy used to provide scientists with direct quantitative and scientific information about pressure suit design.
Pressure suits, unlike normal clothing, are complex pieces of scientific engineering. The suits allow astronauts to be able to leave the spacecraft and do spacewalks.
While humans could provide qualitative information about the suit, people could not gauge the forces involved with accuracy and precision. Moreover, testing pressure suits on actual humans can be unpleasant and even painful. This was what the PDAD project was for: to have a robotic stand-in for the human wearer.
The PDAD weighed 230 pounds and had an adjustable height of five to six feet. The robot was also equipped with a circulatory system of nylon tubes, where oil could flow to power the 35 actuators that replicate the motion of the human body with realistic force -- swiveling of hips, raising and lowering of legs and arms, shrugging of shoulders, clenching of fists and shaking of hands.
Only two robot dummies were created, the other one is owned by the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. The dummy currently for sale was purchased as surplus from the University of Maryland.
While the PDAD project had been impressive, the robot dummies were never deployed. NASA decided to drop the project when it found that the nylon tubes leaked, unable to handle the hydraulic pressure required to move the robot.
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