NASA organizing a competition to prepare robots for Mars journey

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CIOL NASA organizing a competition to prepare robots for Mars journey

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is organizing a competition — Space Robotics Challenge — to develop the capabilities of humanoid robots to help astronauts on the journey to Mars.


The Space Robotics Challenge competition is designed to push the boundaries of robotic dexterity, NASA said. With the technology generated by this challenge, robots could participate in precursor missions to selected landing sites, arriving long before astronauts to set up habitats, life support systems, communications and solar apparatuses, and even begin preliminary scientific research.

Teams must program 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.

The R5 uses elastics technology instead of hydraulics – an innovative way of addressing the problems of operating in space. This technology could also benefit humankind on Earth, as they could operate under dangerous or extreme environments on our home planet, NASA said.


“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, which will be crucial to support our astronauts,” said Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges.

The competition organized by NASA in partnership with Space Center Houston and NineSigma, a global innovation consultant organization 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.

The qualifying round for the Space Robotics Challenge will run 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.

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