The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 51.0°F | A Few Clouds
Article Tools

A Space Robot With Arms To Make R2D2 Jealous

The International Space Station is finally getting its robot.

Anyone who has followed science fiction knows that a good long-duration spacecraft has to have a robot. The space shuttle Endeavour takes off for the space station on Tuesday with a large, Canadian-made robot named Dextre in its cargo bay. Endeavour’s seven-member crew will assemble the robot during three of the mission’s five scheduled spacewalks.

Dextre — pronounced “Dexter” and formally dubbed the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator — is to roam the outside of the space station when commanded by its crew or controllers on the ground, doing odd jobs that previously required a spacewalk.

“It’s an operational robot that’s pushing the limits of what we can do in space today with robotics,” said Daniel Ray, technical manager of the Dextre project for the Canadian Space Agency.

Assembled, Dextre resembles a human form with hips, torso, shoulders, upper body and two long, seemingly ape-like arms. The 3,400-pound robot stands 12 feet tall, and each of its multijointed arms can extend 11 feet.

China Will Keep One-Child Policy

China’s top population official said the country’s one-child-per-couple family planning policy would not change for at least another decade. The announcement refutes speculation that officials were contemplating adjustments to compensate for mounting demographic pressures.

The official, Zhang Weiqing, minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, said China would not make any major changes to the overall family planning policy until roughly a decade from now, when an anticipated surge in births is expected to end.

“The current family planning policy, formed as a result of gradual changes in the past two decades, has proved compatible with national conditions,” Zhang said in a front-page interview published Monday in China Daily, the country’s official English-language newspaper.

“So it has to be kept unchanged at this time to ensure stable and balanced population growth.”

Zhang said that 200 million people would enter childbearing age during the next decade and that prematurely abandoning the one-child policy could add unwanted volatility to the birthrate.

Southern Baptists Back A Shift On Climate Change

Signaling a significant departure from the Southern Baptist Convention’s official stance on global warming, 44 Southern Baptist leaders have decided to back a declaration calling for more action on climate change, saying its previous position on the issue was “too timid.”

The largest denomination in the United States after the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, with more than 16 million members, is politically and theologically conservative. Yet its current president, the Rev. Frank Page, signed the initiative, “A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change.” Two past presidents of the convention, the Rev. Jack Graham and the Rev. James Merritt, also signed, as did presidents of seminaries and Baptist colleges, editors of Baptist newspapers and pastors of churches, many of them in the younger generation of Baptist leaders.

“We believe our current denominational engagement with these issues has often been too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice,” the church leaders wrote in their new declaration.