To prepare for its upcoming human expedition on Mars, NASA wants to develop robots that are able to assist astronauts with a variety of tasks during their mission. For this purpose, NASA has just announced a bounty of $1 million to anyone who manages to create humanoid robots that are able to function in the harsh conditions of Mars.
NASA’s Space Robotics Challenge is opened for registration to anyone who thinks they can develop a humanoid robot suited to their needs. Although the reward doesn’t seem like much for this type of highly difficult work, the team that manages to win the competition is sure to have more lucrative work opportunities in the future.
“NASA and our partners are confident the public will rise to this challenge, and are excited to see what innovative technologies will be produced.”
The specific details of the challenge include programming the software of a virtual robot modeled after NASA’s Robonaut 5 (R5), so it is able to complete a set of tasks in simulated Martian habitat. The virtual systems will be deployed after a dust storm has damaged the habitat and it will have to align a communications dish, fix a habitat leak and repair a solar array.
The qualifying round of the competition will be held mid-September to mid-November. The finalists will be announced in December, with the event taking place starting from January to early June 2017.
According to Monsi Roman, the program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges:
“Precise and dexterous robotics, able to work with a communications delay, could be used in spaceflight and ground missions to Mars and elsewhere for hazardous and complicated tasks, which will be crucial to support our astronauts.”
A predecessor to the NASA’s R5 robot is the R2, which was deployed on the International Space Station since 2011. Currently, it’s only able to perform menial tasks like cleaning after the astronauts but in the future, it could be used for bigger jobs like work outside the station. The software developed during the competition could be uploaded to the R2 and even other future robot models.
Future R5 robots which will be able to function in the hu-freezing temperatures and harsh conditions of Mars will be equipped with elastic technology instead of standard hydraulic systems.
The main purpose of the developing robots is to deploy them before the astronauts, so they can build habitats and install life support and communication systems, as well as to start preliminary scientific research.
What do you think about the future of humanoid robots?
Image source: NASA