The astronaut may have figured out the robot's weak spot. The unshielded part full of combustible fluids. Every murderous robot hs a weak spot like that,
I suspect that this was drawn after the movie "2001" was released, and was the result of a dare: "Bet you can't imagine HAL 9000 as a fat duck."
Have we discussed Piper yet? Can't recall; it's been a while. Wikipedia on his storylines:
The Terro-Human Future History is Piper's detailed account of the next 6,000 years of human history. 1942, the year the first fission reactor was constructed, is defined as the year 1 A.E. (Atomic Era). In 1973, a nuclear war devastates the planet, eventually laying the groundwork for the emergence of a Terran Federation, once humanity goes into space and develops antigravity technology.
Then the big galactic empire falls apart. There's a period of decentralized existence, and then another Federation.