Robot R5 will be a ready-to-assist machine.
By Sreekanth A Nair
NASA is in the process of developing a humanoid robot that could help astronauts in risky and extremely hazardous expeditions in the future.
The six-feet tall, 131.5 kg heavy humanoid robot called R5 will work as a ready-to-assist machine in every dangerous task of the utmost importance during long-lasting journeys beyond the Earth, Astrowatch.net reported on Sunday. The robot was previously known as Valkyrie.
“NASA is counting on robots to set up 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,” Sasha Congiu Ellis of NASA’s Langley Research Centre in Hampton, Virginia, said.
The robot was initially designed to complete disaster relief maneuvers.
In November 2015, NASA awarded two R5 robots to university groups competing in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge (DRC).
One robot is tested by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge under its Robust Autonomy for Extreme Space Environments program, and the other is available for Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts for its Accessible Testing on Humanoid-Robot-R5 and Evaluation of NASA Administered (ATHENA) Space Robotics Challenge.
NASA said that the teams have two years to perform research and software development to improve the robot’s autonomy.
The universities will be receiving $250,000 a year and have access to onsite and virtual technical support from the agency.
Moreover, the robots will compete in a Space Robotics Challenge through 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,” Taskin Padir, the principal investigator of ATHENA at the Northeastern University, said.