Mocup is a tiny, adorable remote-controlled robot built from a Lego Mindstorms set with an off-the-shelf Beagleboard computer for a brain and a webcam for an eye. The machine is not fundamentally different from many other RC robots — except for the fact that its controller operates it from space.
The cat-sized robot can do little more than move around, avoid obstacles, and transmit video. It’s mostly a testbed for communications to help humans in orbit and robots on the surface of a planet work seamlessly together. On Oct. 23, astronaut Sunita Williams sent commands from the International Space Station to Mocup – which stands for the Meteron Operations and Communications Prototype – telling it to travel around an obstacle course in Germany. The test may seem mundane but Mocup represents the first step in dramatically redefining how we discover and investigate the universe.