NASA has announced a new challenge to create a program for a virtual Robonaut 5 which would allow it to complete a series of complex tasks within a virtual Martian habitat.
The competition, in collaboration with Space Center Houston, is specifically aimed to create a functional humanoid robot that could assist astronauts on a journey to Mars. NASA hopes that it could also include future applications to complete dangerous activities on Earth as well.
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Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges explained; “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 […] NASA and our partners are confident the public will rise to this challenge, and are excited to see what innovative technologies will be produced”
Registration opened on August 16th, and will close late September. Qualifying rounds will be held to determine the finalists from mid-September to mid-November, with the final virtual competition set to take place in June 2017.
The competition will be held in a virtual environment. With each team being challenged to recover from the aftermath of a dust storm that has damaged their virtual Martian habitat. They would be asked to complete three tasks; align the communications dish, repairing the solar array, and fix a habitat leak.
As well as working on their latest Robonaut 5, the challenge will require the winning code to be used with the older Robonaut 2 as well as future versions of the Robonaut.
NASA hope the technology generated by the challenge means 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.