London: NASA astronauts have set up the first robot petrol pump in space that will one day pave the way for visiting spacecrafts to ‘fill up’ without astronauts leaving their vehicles.
They have fitted a satellite mock-up to the station``s twin-armed robot called Dextre for a Robotic Refuelling Mission, reports the Daily Mail.
It is hoped that successful experiments could also help with repairs, which would save space on board shuttles and enable longer periods in space.
Dextre is being touted as the first in a generation of orbital petrol pump attendants, which will be able to do for spacecraft what mid-air refuelling jets do for planes.
The robotic arm was installed in 2008 and has since undergone a variety of tests. The dishwasher-sized satellite was put in place during the final spacewalk of NASA’s 30-year shuttle programme on Monday.
Astronauts Ron Garan and Mike Fossum spent six-and-a-half hours crawling around the outside of the International Space Station to attach it. They also retrieved a broken ammonia pump.
Upon their return to Earth the shuttle Atlantis will be retired, bringing to an end NASA’s historic programme.