Fifty years ago, before NASA sent its first astronaut into space, the agency commissioned a robot to test the safety of its spacesuits. Like the spawn of C3PO and the Tin Man, the Power Driven Articulated Dummy (PDAD) was a 230-lb, life-sized android equipped with torque sensors and wiring to monitor how a spacesuit would protect the human body.
Among its 35 human-like movements, the PDAD could shake hands, swivel its hips, and even shrug its shoulders. It was a truly unique machine that stood just shy of uncanny. Unfortunately, it also leaked from its hydraulics. Oil leaks risked contaminating NASA’s expensive spacesuits, so before the PDAD could climb into the equipment, the android was retired.
The PDAD’s workdays may be over but its future as a sought-after Space Age artifact is just beginning. One of the robotic models will be sold by RR Auction in a 10-day auction, beginning September 15.
Only two PDADs were built for NASA by the ITT Research Institute between 1963 and 1965. One of these ended up at the Smithsonian where it’s currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum. The other was initially acquired by the University of Maryland, but was later moved around, and was ultimately purchased as surplus by RR Auction. In the process, the PDAD lost a hand and forearm, gathered a few dents and scratches, and had its wiring damaged. The world-weary gaze was apparently standard issue.
The PDAD’s head is made of fiberglass that can be removed to tend to its internal wiring. The body was constructed from 1/32-inch thick aluminum.
The estimated auction price is at least $80,000, according to RR Auction. Any takers?