China’s Tiangong space station, known for its pair of robotic arms on the exterior, has recently unveiled a surprising addition: a third, smaller robotic arm located within the station’s Mengtian experiment module. Revealed by Chinese broadcaster CCTV, this dextrous arm measures approximately 27.5 to 31.4 inches (70 to 80 centimeters) in length and boasts an impressive operational accuracy of 0.004 inches (0.1 millimeters).
While the larger exterior arms primarily assist with construction and provide support during spacewalks, the interior arm is designed for everyday activities and can play a crucial role in various tasks. Its versatility extends to maintenance, installation, adjustment operations, and even participation in space experiments. For instance, after experiments involving external payloads, including biological loads, the interior arm can change its end tools to facilitate sterilization.
Zhang Lu, a renowned researcher at the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, explained the arm’s potential, stating, “We could have different end tools installed on the robotic arm to perform different tasks in the years to come. If there are some tedious tasks like turning screws or sampling, we can replace the end tool with a small clamping jaw or an electric scissors to complete the operation.”
China successfully completed the construction of the three-module Tiangong space station in late 2022 and recently welcomed its sixth crew aboard the Shenzhou 17 spacecraft. As China aims to maintain a permanent presence on Tiangong for at least a decade and expand the orbital outpost in the future, the addition of this third robotic arm showcases the nation’s commitment to enhancing astronaut efficiency and advancing scientific research in space.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What is the purpose of the third robotic arm inside China’s Tiangong space station?
The third robotic arm within the Tiangong space station is designed to assist astronauts with everyday activities, maintenance, installation, adjustment operations, and participation in space experiments.
2. How long is the third robotic arm?
The interior arm measures approximately 27.5 to 31.4 inches (70 to 80 centimeters) in length.
3. What is the operational accuracy of the third robotic arm?
The third robotic arm’s operational accuracy is an impressive 0.004 inches (0.1 millimeters), enabling precise manipulation of objects.
4. Can the third robotic arm change its end tools?
Yes, the end tools of the third robotic arm can be replaced to adapt to different tasks. This flexibility allows for various operations, such as sterilization, turning screws, or sampling.
5. What is the significance of the addition of the third robotic arm to the Tiangong space station?
The third robotic arm highlights China’s commitment to improving astronaut efficiency, enhancing scientific research capabilities, and furthering exploration efforts on the Tiangong space station.