According to recent activity, seemingly NASA plans to send androids to Mars to help human explorers with their scientific research. The U.S. space agency partnered with two top universities to adjust its Valkyrie robot to deep space missions.
The 6.2-foot Valkyrie robot has been in the works at NASA headquarters for several years. It was initially designed to help emergency crews with providing disaster relief.
But NASA apparently now has big plans for the machine and hopes to adapt its artificial intelligence and agility for future space missions.
Several prototypes of the bot, officially dubbed R5, were handed over to the Northeastern University in Boston and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The bots’ chests have a glowing chest emblem just like Iron Man which helps them coordinate their movements from waist down. They are powered by a battery with one hour autonomy placed on their backs.
The machines are equipped with sensors, sonars, and cameras that allow operators see what they are doing. Cameras are attached to all robots’ ‘limbs’, head and abdomen. By 2017, the two research teams should be able to enroll the R5 into Nasa’s Space Robotics Challenge.
In the contest, robots will need to demonstrate that they are more fit to deep space missions than other machines. Steve Jurczyk, a spokesperson for the U.S. agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, explained that tight cooperation between humans and robots is essential to future Mars missions.
The two teams were selected after a selection process conducted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Each group will be granted $250,000 on a yearly basis and full access to NASA’s robotics database and expertise.
R5’s forerunner was Robonaut, which is now working on the International Space Station, 260 miles above the Earth. ISS crew members use the bot for cleaning operations and basic assistance through their scientific work.
Robonaut’s legs have seven joints, and feet are replaced with grippers for incoming spacewalking operations. The grippers have a camera, sensors, and a source of light attached to them. The sensors can help the robot create 3-D maps of the environment.
R5 will also be able to perform long spacewalks, and unlike humans it will be able to stay outside a spacecraft for days and even months. Astronauts can only stay up to eight or nine hours in the vacuum of space.
Humanoid robots can also be placed on asteroids or Mars and get everything prepared before human crews arrive.
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