Dextre is a multipurpose robotic tool on the end of Canadarm, a robotic arm by the Canadian Space Agency that’s currently aboard the International Space Station, some 230 miles in the sky. Dextre has already done a number of fix-it jobs around the ISS, but the CSA has big plans for it, as it’s about to effectively repair itself.
This hasn’t taken place yet, but the animation above shows how it will work. Here’s how the CSA describes what will happen:
Dextre will start by retrieving a faulty camera located near Canadarm2’s elbow joint. Since the camera is functional, but produces hazy images, Dextre will move it to a less critical location on the mobile base. Dextre will then head over to Japan’s Kibo module to fetch a camera from the module’s transfer airlock — a type of sliding drawer that can be depressurized — where the station’s crew will place it for Dextre to retrieve. Dextre will install the new camera on Canadarm2’s elbow joint, where it will provide critical views of the robotic arm’s movements.
This sets an exciting precedent for the role of robotics in the future of space exploration. As space robots become more and more capable of complex tasks like this one, we’ll be able to go farther into space than before without worrying about the time required to reach interstellar destinations. Alpha Centauri, one of our nearest cosmological neighbours, is still a whopping 25.6 trillion miles away, and that’s one heck of a distance for a human to cover. Robots don’t age and die like people, but they can still break. As they become increasingly capable of complex work like this, robots will be quite the golden ticket to enable our exploration of places farther and farther away from our planet.
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