NASA puts $2.7M toward eight robot projects

NASA is making leaps toward landing a human on Mars, and it’s doing so by investing $2.7 million into eight advances robotics projects meant to improve robot technology, according to an InformationWeek article.

These projects are part of the White House’s National Robotics Initiative. The purpose this initiative is to encourage research that combines computer and systems science with mechanical, electrical and materials engineering and social, behavioral and economic sciences, the article tagged NASA as saying in a statement on the project awards. "The NRI is targeting these new machines that will work with humans as co-workers, co-explorers, co-inhabitants, co-drivers, creating and capturing the new discipline of co-robotics," NASA said on its National Robotics Initiative  website.

Primed to work alongside humans, these robots will give aid by either performing dull tasks, or ones that are deemed too dangerous for astronauts to perform. One robot, Robonaut 2, is currently on the International Space Station, operating in this fashion. Its first job was to monitor air velocity, the article said. NASA is using Robonaut 2 as illustration of the practical ways in which robots can assist missions.

Robots figure into NASA’s plans for an asteroid mission in 2025, and human exploration of Mars in 2035, the article said. The National Science Foundation managed the solicitation for the eight project proposals, which were received from U.S. universities. Each will receive between $150,000 and $1 million in funding.  The proposals include development of human avatar robots capable of exploring hazardous environments; active skins for tactile feedback; “tele-manipulation of humanoid robots on rough terrain; and long, thin continuum robots.

Reader Comments

Fri, Sep 21, 2012

"... Its first job was to monitor air velocity..." Given that there is no air in space, where is it measuring air velocity? And why would you need a robot to do that; that's what pitot tubes do.

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