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Robot Pushes China Closer To Space

File Photo: A Chinese military officer gives orders to a robot at an exhibition in Beijing Feb 27 2001. The exhibition showcased achievements by Chinese scientists under the national 863 project set up in 1986 to compete with the West. AFP Photo
Harbin - Jan 17, 2002
Chinese researchers said they have engineered a hand, as deft as a human's, for a space robot which will soon be sent into space as a prelude to the country's first manned space mission.

It marked a breakthrough in China's efforts to develop space robots, which will explore the lunar surface before Chinese astronauts set foot on the moon, according to a leading space robot researcher.

"With the deft hand, the robot may replace astronauts to conduct some difficult and dangerous operations outside the space capsule," said its developer Liu Hong, a professor with the Harbin Polytechnic University in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

The robot hand, as large as a human hand, has four fingers, and each finger has four joints on it. It is equipped with 96 multifunctional sensors, 12 motors and a computer.

Under the remote control of researcher, the robot hand can lift objects weighing 10 kilograms on earth and can use spanners, screwdrivers and other tools.

"It can even play piano," said Liu, adding that the mechanical hand also has wide applications here on earth.

"Breakthroughs have been made in many key technologies of space robots," said Liang Bin, deputy director of China's first space robot research center in Beijing, "The space robot will be sent aloft very soon."

Countries including the United States, Japan and Russia have developed space robots. The gap between China and the countries in space robot technology has been greatly narrowed, researchers said.

The State Aerospace Bureau has confirmed that China will explore the moon and will actively participate in the international exploration of Mars after it becomes only the third nation on earth to launch humans into space.

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