NASA opens challenge to build robots for Mars journey

NASA opens challenge to build robots for Mars journey

Washington, Aug 17 (IANS) The US space agency has opened registration for a new competition — the Space Robotics Challenge — to develop the capabilities of humanoid robots to help astronauts on the journey to Mars.

Developed with with Space Center Houston and NineSigma, a global innovation consultant organization, the Space Robotics Challenge is a $1 million competition designed to push the boundaries of robotic dexterity.

Teams must programme a virtual robot, modeled after NASA’s Robonaut 5 (R5) robot, to complete a series of tasks in a simulation that includes periods of latency to represent communications delay from Earth to Mars, NASA said in a statement.

“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,” said Monsi Roman, programme manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges.

The competition will be held in a virtual environment.

Each team’s R5 will be challenged with resolving the aftermath of a dust storm that has damaged a Martian habitat.

This involves three objectives: aligning a communications dish, repairing a solar array and fixing a habitat leak.

Registration for the Space Robotics Challenge began from Wednesday with a qualifying round running from mid-September to mid-November.

Finalists of that round will be announced in December and will engage in open practice from January to early June 2017.

The final virtual competition will be held in June 2017, and winners will be announced at the end of June at Space Center Houston.

This technology could also benefit humankind on Earth as these robots could operate under dangerous or extreme environments on our home planet.

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