The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will attempt another lunar landing this year, and they’re sending a humanoid robot torso named Vyommitra along for the ride.
Providing everything goes as planned, India’s Gaganyaan crewed orbital spacecraft, with Vyommitra on board, will set off for the Moon in December, as part of the Chandrayaan-3 lunar exploration mission.
Aside from the robot, the flight will be unmanned.
As you can see in this video (courtesy The Times of India), Vyommitra appears as precisely half of a humanoid female. She has two arms, a head, and a torso, sports white robotic hands, and wears a spiffy grey uniform.
As a robot astronaut, she’s bilingual, and programmed to perform a variety of crewmember tasks. She’ll also reportedly act as a companion to human astronauts in the future. In her own words, she says she can “perform life support operations” and “mimic all crew activities.”
“I can also be your companion, can converse with the astronauts, recognize them, and can also respond to their queries.”
ISRO chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan told The Times Of India last year that the robot is intended to perform any action a human can do, though not as “extensively.”
India’s Journey to the Moon
The Chandrayaan-3 mission is a follow-up to the ill-fated Chandrayaan-2. While that mission’s orbiter successfully reached lunar orbit last August, in September the Vikram lander unfortunately made a hard impact on the Moon’s surface, crashing and destroying both it and the Pragyan rover on board.
The crash was reportedly the result of a software glitch, which caused the lander to “deviate from its intended trajectory.”
Chandrayaan-3 will be an attempt at a do-over. The intention of these missions is to soft land a rover at the lunar south pole, ahead of a planned collaborative mission with Japan in 2024.
If the ISRO is successful in their next attempt, they’ll become the fourth space agency in the world to perform a soft lunar landing, following Russia, the United States, and China. The ISRO also intends to send human astronauts to space in 2022.