NASA Prepares Humanoid Robots for Future Deep Space Missions

By CIOReview | Wednesday, January 27, 2016
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FREMONT, CA: NASA is all set to develop six feet tall humanoid robots that will help astronauts to deal with risky and extremely hazardous space expeditions in the future. The US space agency has named the model as R5. R5 will provide a helping hand to the astronauts during long lasting journeys beyond the Earth.

“NASA is counting on robots to setup and care for deep space exploration facilities and equipment pre-deployed ahead of astronauts. Robots are also excellent precursors for conducting science missions ahead of human exploration,” says Sasha Congiu Ellis, NASA Langley Research Centre Hampton, Virginia.

These humanoids were earlier brought into practice to complete disaster reality relief manoeuvres. NASA gave two R5 robots to different university groups competing in Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge (DRC). One of those robots is tested under the Robust Autonomy for Extreme Space Environments program in the Cambridge’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Whereas, the second robot is provided to Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts for Accessible Testing of R5 and Evaluation of NASA Administered (ATHENA) Space Robotics Challenge.

NASA dedicated two years of services to both the teams for performing research and software development for the improvement of the robot’s autonomy. The universities will receive an amount of $250,000 every year and NASA will also provide them onsite access and virtual technical support. Furthermore, both of these robots will compete in Space Robotics Challenge of the NASA’s Centennial Challenge Program.

“This will be our first hands-on experience with this hardware. We will leverage our lessons learned from the DARPA Robotics Challenge to perform tasks relevant to future space missions with Valkyrie autonomously,” says Taskin Padir, Principal Investigator, ATHENA, Northeastern University.

Northeastern university’s team will contribute its skills in three main areas, human robot interaction, planning and control of constrained motion and grasping of unknown objects. R5 project is a Game Changing Development Program of NASA. This program will help NASA in advancement of space technologies and it will also help in finding new approaches for future space missions.