This article originally appeared on VICE India.
Before Yuri Gagarin—the first man sent into space—conquered headlines and the space race, there was Laika, a stray mongrel found on the streets of Russia who became the first animal to venture into the universe. The idea was to test and confirm whether the world’s first manned spacecraft was capable of keeping the astronaut alive. But in a world that is arguably more woke, it looks like animal cruelty is out and robots are in because the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) just unveiled Vyommitra, a humanoid robot they plan to send into space this year.
As ISRO gears up for Gaganyaan, India’s first attempt at sending humans into space, four astronauts who are pilots for the Indian Air Force have already been selected to traverse space. However, since ISRO’s previous unmanned mission Chandrayaan-2 wasn’t quite the success story it set out to be, scientists seem to be seeking assurance that all will go well. So, they’re sending Vyommitra, a lifelike “half humanoid” robot with no legs who can mimic human actions to conduct experiments in the great unknown universe. "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 centre," ISRO scientist Sam Dayal told India Today. This talking robot was introduced to the world at an event held in Bengaluru today and makes for an intriguing subject. Not only is she programmed to imitate the actions of the astronauts, but she can also recognise and reply to them.
As per the timeline, before ISRO launches its manned spacecraft in 2022, it will conduct two trial runs with Vyommitra in December this year and June 2021 to test out the effectiveness of its spacecraft and whether a moving entity can actually survive in it. Interestingly, Vyommitra may be the only female repping the gender on board since all the other astronauts selected happen to be men.
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