Servo motors started out on steam ships, and its no surprise that they’re on space ships. Along with sensors, wireless communication devices, drives, and controls. The Internet of Things is very much at home in space, where human beings are very much not at home. Industrial automation allows us to see, measure, and learn about moon rocks, the canals of Mars, and the prospects of human life in space.
But human beings have a need to make things. From the first flintknapped arrowhead to the latest 3D printed Christmas tree ornaments, we just can’t keep our hands out of the raw materials.
And of course it is very practical to be able to make something on the International Space Station, since dropping by the local mega mart is not practical.
So the ISS has a 3D printer. It has been used to make tools from a file dispatched from earth to the ISS, and to make special cups which allow astronauts to savor hot liquids in zero gravity — they really get to smell the coffee, which makes a big improvement over squeezing the liquid from a bag.
Wherever human beings go, taking automation along has the potential to improve human life.