Sammies finalists build a space-bot to aid astronauts

Fifteen years ago, NASA began their Robonaut project to create the first humanoid robot that would be capable of working in space. Despite various funding problems, the resulting humanoid machine is currently on the International Space Station helping crew members by taking over simple, repetitive or dangerous tasks now performed by astronauts. The robot has “skin” covered arms connected to fingers nimble enough to use sign language and twist knobs without breaking them.

Ron Diftler, Robonaut Project lead for NASA’s Robotics Systems Technology Branch, has been with the project since the beginning. He and the Robonaut2 team are finalists in the Science and Environment category of the Service to America Medals.

Federal News Radio asked the Sammies finalists to tell us a bit about themselves.

What three words best describe your leadership philosophy?

Respectful, inclusive, hardworking.

What’s the best piece of advice (or words of wisdom) you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?

Perfection is the enemy of success. One of my graduate professors.

Who is your biggest role model and why?

Abraham Lincoln. He led during the most trying of times.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome (personally or professionally) and how did you overcome it?

Professionally, combining NASA and GM goals and culture to produce an extremely effective team to produce Robonaut 2. Overcome with a lot of hard work, showing folks that I respected their opinions, and sticking to my choices.

What’s the last thing you read and what’s next on your reading list?

Science fiction novel called Kobayashi Maru. Have not decided on my next book. Possibly continue Bleak House by Charles Dickens

What’s your favorite bureaucratic phrase?

That’s the way it is done. (I love to ignore this phrase.)

Meet the rest of the 2012 Sammies finalists.

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