Boston Magazine: Local scientists are helping NASA make robotic astronauts
Boston Magazine - 03/06/2016
he space agency has been working on a humanoid robot of its own and is seeking help in readying it (or its successor) for manned missions to asteroids and Mars. NASA needs a humanoid robot because all of the agency’s tools and equipment are designed for humans. That was fine when actual humans did all the work, but in Mars’ hostile environment, a robot would be a safer bet.
To take a human’s place, NASA’s robot, called Valkyrie, will have to move and function like one. It already has arms and legs, and it can walk, see, and grasp objects. But on the Mars mission it will have to descend a ladder onto the planet’s surface, operate power tools, and collect rock samples.
Right now, Valkyrie can’t do any of these things, which is where Tedrake and Northeastern’s Taskin Padir come in. Both scientists will receive a Valkyrie robot on loan from NASA. Over the next 18 months, each of their labs will refine Valkyrie’s software for NASA’s international Space Robotics Challenge, where teams from the world’s leading robotics laboratories will then make Valkyrie even more capable.