NASA’s R5 robots are off to school

NASA has plans for robots to take long-distance trips to different planets and work with astronauts on the International Space Station. But first, NASA is sending them to school for some advanced research and development work.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northeastern University will each receive one of NASA’s R5 robots so they can research ways to improve the autonomy of the 6-foot, 290-pound humanoid robot, and better preparing it for future space missions.

The two universities were selected from the participants in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics Challenge. In addition to the robots, both universities will receive as much as $250,000 a year for two years, and have access to onsite and virtual technical support from NASA.

The challenge was part of the agency’s Centennial Challenges Program and is divided into two competitions: a virtual competition using robotic simulations and a physical competition using the two upgraded R5 robots.

“Advances in robotics, including human-robotic collaboration, are critical to developing the capabilities required for our journey to Mars,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate. “We are excited to engage these university research groups to help NASA with this next big step in robotics technology development.”

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.

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