The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is all set to send India’s first humanoid called Vyommitra into space. The name Vyommitra is taken from old literature of Sanskrit and it’s meaning is space friend.
The ‘space robot’ Vyommitra has been developed by scientists at IISc in collaboration with ISRO and has been showcased as the Humanoid prototype for the Gaganyaan missions in 2022 at Bengaluru.
Gaganyaan is the next mission of ISRO after, in this mission India intended to send 3 astronauts to space for a minimum of 7 & days by 2022, as part of the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme.
Vyommitra will be part of the first few trial launches, she will be will eventually fly to a space mission later this year, aiming to simulate most of the human body functions & lay the ground for ISRO’s manned mission.
ISRO chairman Dr. K Sivan announced that two unmanned missions will be sent up and recovered before it, thus testing and proving India’s technologies to do the same before the actual manned mission is taken up.
These two unmanned missions will carry with them a half-humanoid, along with a few other instruments to experiments microgravity and its effects on humans, said Dr. Kailasavadivoo Sivan.
The humanoid is almost ready. We want to make sure that this mission serves a purpose displaying our ability to send humans and bring them back safely. Our robot is going to be sort of a human, and be ready to do whatever a person can do, although not as extensively as humans.
We are on schedule. We are going to do lots of demonstration tests this year. This year-end we will send our unmanned mission and the half-humanoid you have seen today is going to fly in it, he said.
Vyommitra is not a dumb humanoid, she is capable of recognizing faces of other humans, she can mimic what they would do in space and also she can even hold conversations and answer queries.
Vyommitra can mimic the activity of a crew of astronauts and even recognize them and respond to their queries. At the event she greeted reporters with “Hi, I’m Vyommitra the first prototype of half humanoid.”
She can also double up as an artificial buddy to an astronaut by providing audio inputs on aspects like the health of the spacecraft during the launch, landing and orbital phases of the manned mission.
Vyommitra is said half humanoid because she does not have legs. “It’s called a half humanoid because it doesn’t have legs. It can only bend sidewards and forward. It will carry out certain experiments and will always remain in touch with the Isro command center,” Isro scientist Sam Dayal said.
“It is trying to simulate the environment, how a human will feel, so it will react to the situation. For eg, if there is an increase of carbon dioxide or depletion of oxygen,sensor should be able to sense it and report back. ”
“It should respond to people’s commands, and recognize people and respond in an intelligent way. We are trying to build some artificial intelligence in it too,” he added.
As per ISRO, the role of Vyommitra is described as monitoring of crew parameters, perform Environmental Control and Life Support System functions, and mimic all crew activities like switch operations on a panel, etc.
She has been trained to operate critical machines in the crew module, initially expected to do alone during the only humanoid flights and, later, as an associate of crew member within the spacecraft cabin.
Various sensors and instrumentation inside the humanoid records the parameters like heat, noise, gravitational de-acceleration, etc. during the space flight, which will help scientists to make space flight safer.
“The spacesuit shall too be worn by the humanoid in order to know its efficacy in space flight in the actual environment, and make modifications before a human uses it for an actual flight, “explains M. Kulshreshtha.
Attaining launch and orbital postures, responding to the environment, generating warnings, replacing carbon dioxide canisters, operating switches, monitoring of the crew module, receiving voice commands, responding via speech (bilingual) are the functions listed for the humanoid.
Vyommitra has also a feature to report back to Earth on the changes occurring in the crew module during the spaceflight and return, such as heat radiation levels, to enable Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to understand the safety levels required in the crew module that will eventually fly a human being.
“It is ambitious to do this, in this time period. But it (the decision) was taken knowing that ISRO has already developed the re-entry systems, recovery systems, and crew escape systems. Only missing elements are human life support systems, which we are developing now,” ISRO Chairman K Sivan said.
Asked to elaborate on the human life support systems that need to be developed, Sivan said there are varied factors. “In space, everything is a vacuum. What is there on the ground, we have to create that. There are many things like pressure should be maintained at a particular value,” he said.
Vyommitra would provide ISRO scientists a completed report about how human life is needed to manage in a space environment example of what is wrong with the capsule that it is sent & it would monitor outer space.
The initial plan is to send it up for about seven days to gauge how it reacts to the stresses of space travel. It will also check if the capsule would be able to bring it back unharmed, and how it reacts to changes in the atmosphere during re-entry from outer space to the earth’s atmosphere.
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