JAXA plans to send robot avatars with human-like hands to space

The human-controlled machines will build bases, repair equipment and even perform surgeries.

JAXA unveiled the Avatar X project in early September, revealing its plans to send humanoid machines controlled by human operators to space. Now, Japanese robotics company Meltin has announced that it has teamed up with JAXA and ANA to start the full-scale development of its MELTANT-α cyborg technology for the initiative. MELTANT-α was designed with hands that are about as strong and as fast as real ones -- they're also equipped with haptics to make them as human-like as possible. It's the perfect candidate for a project that intends to use remote-controlled humanoid machines to conduct experiments, to repair space stations and to build human settlements, among many other things.

As you know, manned missions are extremely costly and not possible for certain scenarios yet. Since we've yet to send human astronauts to Mars, for instance, it might be wiser and safer for space agencies and companies to use robots to build bases where scientists or the first settlers can live. Mars is a bit too far from our planet, though, so human operators might have to control the robots from an orbiting station or a smaller base. In addition to repairs, maintenance and construction, the machines could also grow food and perform surgeries on spacefarers.

The Avatar X partners are planning to conjure up a timeline this year and to build a testing facility in Japan in 2019. They're hoping to send the technologies they develop to the ISS/Low-Earth Orbit by 2020 for further testing in space.