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Astronaut and robot shake hands in space

In a world first, the commander of the International Space Station, last seen on "American Idol," shakes hands with a humanoid robot, whose handshake he calls "firm."


Is this the beginning of end? Or perhaps the end of the beginning? Or could it be merely a handshake that presages the ultimate fighting contest between humans and robots?

In case you were far too buried in attempting to pirate the new Nazis-in-space movie, may I tell you that today an astronaut shook a robot's hand in space for the first time.

The astronaut in question is International Space Station Commander Daniel Burbank, last seen (at least by me) on a recent episode of "American Idol." So he knows something about otherworldly experiences.

Yet here he was today face to face with a humanoid robot.

Some will be pleased to hear that the robot was not entirely independent in his movements. He was being controlled by humans from the ground.

Still, Robonaut--who does appear to be a slightly removed relative of Robocop--is already taking an active role in human life. Yes, he's on Twitter.

He's using the service to make deep revelations about his life and his seeming leglessness. For example in answer to the question: "where is your legs at," Robonaut replied: "@luckydog99 No legs yet. They're in development on the ground."

What did it feel like to have one's had shaken by a robot? On the NASA site, Commander Burbank declared: "For the record, it was a firm handshake."

He went on to add: "Very nice. Nice job on the programming and all the engineering. Quite an impressive robot."

The question is, was he attempting to flatter his future master into a false sense of dominance? Or was he shaken a little by the power of the shaking?

The handshake appears to be known as Step 4 Decimal 3 (or was it Step 4 Decimal 4?) in ground control language. And, to my eyes, there was a disturbing sign.

I am not convinced that Robonaut wanted to shake hands at all. Please watch closely as his hand is directed toward Commander Burbank's knee.

Perhaps jealous of the commander's legs, he intended to take them for his own. Or perhaps his innards are already bellicose and he simply wanted to have fun kneecapping him.

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET