NASA Wants You to Help Humanoid Robot Valkyrie Get to Mars

Friday, 19 August 2016 - 4:15PM
Technology
Robotics
Friday, 19 August 2016 - 4:15PM
NASA Wants You to Help Humanoid Robot Valkyrie Get to Mars
NASA has just built a new model of the Robonaut named Valkyrie, touted as the "world's first bipedal humanoid robot." Now, the space agency is challenging the public to help Valkyrie get to Mars—or, more accurately, to make Valkyrie capable of helping us get to Mars.

Valkyrie, named after female figures in Norse mythology who decided which soldiers lived and died in battle, is the latest model of the Robonaut, designed by the Johnson Space Center for the 2013 DARPA Robotics Challenge. She stands at 6 feet 2 inches tall and 300 pounds, and looks like a bad-ass droid that would be a fan favorite character in a sci-fi movie. According to NASA, she is "designed to be a robust, rugged, entirely electric humanoid robot capable of operating in degraded or damaged human-engineered environments."

But now, NASA wants to take Valkyrie a few steps further than dangerous human environments—to extraterrestrial environments. NASA's Space Robotics Challenge is asking the public to come up with innovations to develop Valkyrie so she can travel to space, and maybe even assist humans on a mission to Mars. 

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"NASA is interested in enhancing robot capabilities to push the boundaries of what's possible in human exploration and to improve lives on Earth," they wrote in a statement. "As missions grow longer and more complex, robots like R5 could be used as precursor explorers that precede crewed missions, as crew helpers in space or as caretakers of assets left behind.
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NASA is hoping that teams will develop upgrades for Valkyrie that will allow her to be more precise and dexterous in her movements, have the ability to work with a communications delay, and perform other supportive tasks that astronauts might need. The contest will be held virtually, so no need to travel anywhere, and registration begins today. A qualifying round will run from mid-September to mid-November, with finalists announced in December. They will then compete from January to June 2017, with the final competition and announcement of the winners occurring at the end of June.
Science
NASA
Technology
Robotics