Russia’s uncrewed Soyuz MS-14 rocket delivered its humanoid robot passenger safely back to Earth. The capsule parachuted to a Kazakhstan landing site at 5:32 p.m. ET on September 6 (3:32 a.m. September 7 in Kazakhstan), according to a NASA report.
Russian Mission Milestone
The spacecraft’s successfully returned after completing a 16-day stay at the International Space Station. The mission marked the first time a Soyuz rocket flew to the orbiting lab without carrying cosmonauts or astronauts.
Furthermore, the MS-14’s roundtrip flight confirmed the rocket’s compatibility with upgraded Soyuz boosters. The new equipment will help facilitate crewed launches next year.
Robotic Helper Lends a Hand
Last month, Russia’s humanoid Skybot F-850 robot, FEDOR, flew to the ISS aboard the Soyuz spaceship. The craft also carried 1,450 pounds of equipment and scientific experiments. The four-limbed figure stands just under six feet tall and weighs about 350 pounds.
FEDOR stands for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research. An ITMO University report explained that the robot could do a variety of tasks with its “arms” and “hands.” For example, the bot can open a door and operate an electric drill. It can even shoot a gun from each hand at the same time.
Via its built-in self-learning system, FEDOR can move autonomously. Or, the droid can repeat the movements of an operator who wears an exosuit. Perhaps most importantly, the robot can work in areas of radiation and chemical contamination. In this application, humans could avoid exposure to a toxic environment during cleanup or rescue efforts.
During its recent ISS stay, FEDOR completed several tests and experiments with cosmonaut Aleksander Skvortsov and ISS Commander Alexey Ovchinin.
Добрый день! Сегодня провели серию работ с бортовыми инструментами, которые могут понадобиться для внекорабельной деятельности. Работа с электродрелью проходила под постоянным контролем Алексея Николаевича Овчинина pic.twitter.com/TQUGcNnvzA
— FEDOR (@FEDOR37516789) September 3, 2019
In another post, FEDOR enjoyed a “view” of the Earth from its vantage point in space.
Добрый вечер, друзья! Я Skybot F-850 приветствую вас с орбиты МКС!
Мы продолжаем эксперименты, открывающиеся возможности использования в космосе антропоморфных роботов. Работы много. А в свободное время любуюсь нашей планетой.
7 сентября запланировано моё возвращение на Землю. pic.twitter.com/HRJcTs6tol
— FEDOR (@FEDOR37516789) September 2, 2019
Furthermore, the bot “successfully connected cables and worked with tools used by cosmonauts on spacewalks outside the station,” according to Spaceflight Now.
Like its free-flying Astrobee robotic companions, a Skybot like FEDOR might one day work beside ISS crewmembers or other space travelers to conduct many different tasks.
Successful End to a Shaky Start
The Soyuz MS-14 mission’s successful end closes the books on a shaky start.
After launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on August 21, the craft made a smooth two-day trip to the space station. However, upon approach, cosmonauts inside the ISS ordered the rocket to abort its initial docking attempt.
Due to an issue with the space station’s Kurs automated rendezvous system, the ship couldn’t achieve a solid telemetry lock to the Poisk module. Fortunately, after ISS crewmembers cleared a Soyuz MS-13 rocket from another port, the ship synced to the orbiting lab in its second attempt.
Overall, the Soyuz MS-14 rocket spent four weeks docked at the ISS before returning FEDOR and a load of scientific experiments to Earth.