In a move closer to a future of human civilization on the Red Planet, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, has developed humanoid robots to send for advanced space missions.
NASA's Valkyrie (R5) Robot
NASA's R5 robots were initially designed and built by the Johnson Space Center Engineering Directorate for the 2013 DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Trials. The six-foot-tall, 300-pound-heavy robots are designed to be a robust, rugged, entirely electric humanoid robot capable of operating in degraded or damaged human-engineered environments, according to NASA.
Dubbed Valkyrie, the battery-powered robot got its name from Norse mythology, which refers to Odin's group of ethereal maidens sent to the battlefield to choose who among the slain were worthy of a place in Valhalla.
Each Valkyrie robot comes with a hefty price tag of $2 million dollars each, and are new and improved versions of the earlier JSC humanoid robots, such as the Robonaut 2.
Refined Capabilities To Withstand Martian Environment
Among four Valkyrie R5 robots produced by the agency, NASA only held on to one, which is headquartered in a warehouse in Lowell, Massachusetts.
In 2015, the rest of the models were awarded to Northeastern University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. The institutions were handpicked by NASA to do further studies aimed at refining and enhancing Valkyrie's capabilities.
"They've done all of the hardware and we're developing these high-level capabilities so Valkyrie does more than just move limbs. She can autonomously make decisions, move around and accomplish tasks," Northeastern University PhD student, Murphy Wonsick, said.
Space Robotics Challenge
All three institutions will take on each other using their work at NASA's Space Robotics Challenge, with $1 million dollars at stake for the winning team.
"In the not too distant future, R5 will arrive on Mars along with supplies ahead of a human mission. Overnight a dust storm damaged the habitat and solar array, and caused the primary communication antenna to become misaligned," A spokesperson for NASA stated.
To win, each team's Valkyrie R5 must be able to effectively and efficiently repair the damage, set up a new solar panel, and align the communication antenna to complete the challenge.
Using Virtual Reality, Buzz Aldrin Can Take You To Mars Now
Buzz Aldrin, the legendary astronaut who walked on the moon, has just released a first-of-its-kind virtual reality experience named Cycling Pathways To Mars, where he takes you from the iconic Apollo 11 landing site to the Red Planet.
"They'll spend some time on the lunar surface to see what that loneliness and crew interactions are. But when they come back, the national program hopefully will not be to just to visit Mars, not just to keep it occupied, but to settle Mars," the 80-year-old space explorer said.