India will launch a humanoid robot ahead of its first crewed space mission

Its name is Vyommitra.

Before sending its first crewed mission in late 2021, India will launch a humanoid robot called Vyommitra into space, reports The Tribune. It will take flight later this year and in 2021. According to the publication, the robot's name is a combination of the Sanskrit words for "space" and "friend," and as you can see from the video below, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) modeled it after a human woman -- though it doesn't feature any legs.

The robot told reporters it can operate switch panels, talk to astronauts and monitor a spacecraft's environmental and life support systems. Its primary purpose, however, is to allow ISRO to test how space flight affects the human body before the agency sends astronauts up in one of its Gaganyaan craft.

"It will be simulating exactly the human functions there [in space]. It will check whether the system is right. This will be very useful to simulate, as if a human is flying," ISRO chairman K Sivan told reporters at the media event where the agency showed off the robot.

Although Vyommitra's appearance is sure to inspire headlines about its perceived gender, the fact of the matter is that sending robots into space is nothing new. Just last year, one of NASA's adorable Astrobee robots flew on its own aboard the International Space Station. When it comes to challenges of space flight, robots, whatever their shape, are better equipped to handle the stresses associated with leaving the earth's atmosphere than human bodies.