NASA has awarded two universities prototypes of its R5 humanoid robot for advanced research and development work, the space agency announced today.
“Advances in robotics, including human-robotic collaboration, are critical to developing the capabilities required for our journey to Mars,” said Steve Jurczyk, the associate administrator for NASA’s 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.”
NASA’s R5 is a bipedal humanoid robot. Its white body has trimmings of orange throughout. The NASA emblem is situated at the center of its chest plate. According to NASA, “Robots, like NASA’s R5, could be used in future NASA missions either as precursor robots performing mission tasks before humans arrive or as human-assistive robots actively collaborating with the human crew.”
“R5 initially was designed to complete disaster-relief maneuvers, however, its main goal is to prove itself worthy of even trickier terrain—deep space exploration,” the agency continued.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Northeastern Univ. were selected for NASA’s award. MIT’s group is led by principal investigator Russ Tedrake and Northeastern Univ.’s group is led by principal investigator Taskin Padir. The two groups were selected from a pool entered in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge. The groups will receive as much as $250,000 a year for two years and have access to onsite and virtual technical support from NASA.
The two robots upgraded will be instruments in NASA’s upcoming Space Robotics Challenge, which aims to create software that gives robots autonomy during space missions.