Key to Unmanned Space Missions? This Humanoid Robot from NASA



Say hello to a new breed of astronauts. They won’t be undergoing any g-force simulation but instead, beta runs and bug tests.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was given a humanoid robot by NASA in order to perform tests, research, and development, which will all be beneficial for future space missions.

Valkyrie, also known as R5, is six feet tall and weighs 290 pounds. R5 is part of NASA’s forthcoming Space Robotics Challenge. And MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) feels privileged to be one of the two universities to receive the robot. The other university that will receive the bot is Boston, Massachusetts’s Northeastern University.



Principal investigator Russ Tedrake will lead CSAIL and a team to create algorithms and software in the  hopes of making the robotic astronaut-independent. NASA has high hope that these autonomous astronauts will someday replace humans during risky space missions.

This move is a part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program. The scheme is divided into two parts: physical competition, which involves the two R5 robots, and virtual competition, which revolves around robotic simulations.



Tedrake’s team is confident that they can bring home the bacon. For the past three years, they have been developing and testing algorithms for another humanoid robot for a competition backed by the government. His team has successfully taught their bot to turn valves, drive a car, open doors, drill holes, and navigate stairs.

Tedrake was even part of CSAIL’s research program sponsored by Toyota in hopes of getting cars to navigate without human intervention.

After winning the DARPA Robotics Challenge, the CSAIL team will receive $250,000 annually for two years as a form of reward and will be given the chance to continue their research on the R5 robot.

But wait, there’s more. They will also be granted access to virtual and onsite technical support from NASA.



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