The shuttle Discovery, now slated for a Wednesday launch, will carry the first humanoid (from the waist up, anyway) robot in space: Ronbonaut 2, known of course as R2. Its gold visor shields four visible light cameras and one infrared camera (actually located in the mouth), providing stereoscopic vision and depth perception. Its padded five-finger hands will handle tools as an astronaut would. Engineers will experiment to see how well R2 can handle tasks on the outside of the ISS. Followons are expected to drastically cut the need for spacewalks, or EVAs, which are costly and hazardous.
COMMENT: R2 cost $2.5 million, which really isn't at all bad for the leap in technology it represents. Robots will have other uses, both on Earth and in space, so the money is well worth it.