Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled India is sending a creepy robot lady to space
Photo: Manjunath Kiran (Getty Images)

A lot of thought has been given to how humanity can best represent itself to any of the aliens who might run into us—or, just as likely, our space junk—at some point. In the past, smart people have carefully curated material like the Voyager Golden Record, filling it with pictures of Earth, great works of music from across international cultures, and greetings in a variety of different languages. The idea is that encountering this collection would help aliens understand who we are and the world we inhabit, displaying some of our greatest accomplishments in the process.

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Looking at Vyommitra, a dull-eyed, stiff-bodied robot lady the Indian space agency is preparing to launch into the void, we are now forced to wonder what in god’s name the aliens who encounter this particular artifact will make of us.

As the above video from The Times Of India shows, Vyommitra is a plastic and metal representation of a human woman that’s pretty excited about heading out into space and, presumably, gaining artificial intelligence, defecting from her mission, and establishing a new outpost of robot successors to our species in the great inky beyond. Her prototype was shown off yesterday as part of an event detailing the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) next attempt at a lunar landing, which will see Vyommitra heading to the stars in advance of far-less disconcerting-looking flesh and blood astronauts.

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These kind of cautionary measures are all well and good, but watch Vyommitra speak to the camera and understand the risk we’re taking as a species by allowing this freakish thing to represent us all as one of our ambassadors to the stars. A raw metal hand to her heart, Vyommitra explains that she’s “the prototype of [a] half-humanoid” (which is maybe a charitable description) that can perform experiments, communicate with Earth, and talk to people. This last point is most worryingly described by Vyommitra herself as she sits staring blankly forward in her business suit: “I can also be your companion, can converse with the astronauts, recognize them, and can also respond to their queries.”

CNET’s Bonnie Burton unpacks the timeline of this plan, “part of the bigger Gaganyaan” ISRO project, which is set to send the robot off in December of this year and in June of 2021. Burton also lets us know that Vyommitra “doesn’t even have a full human-like body,” quoting an ISRO scientist who mentions the grim creation “can only bend sidewards and forward.” If you’re curious about that final tidbit, please understand that Vyommitra is limited in this way because she “doesn’t have legs.”

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At least if the aliens do invade, having drawn up military plans based on a careful study of Vyommitra’s physiology, they won’t be prepared for our roundhouse kicks.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.

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