Turn on Your Heart Light and Meet NASA’s “Superhero” Robot

by Nancy Atkinson on December 11, 2013

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Here’s a new DARPA-inspired, NASA-built robot, complete with a glowing NASA Meatball in its chest, reminiscent of ET’s heart light. The robot’s name is Valkyrie and she was created by a team at the Johnson Space Center as part of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, a contest designed to find the life-saving robot of the future. While NASA’s current robot — Robonaut 2 – is just now getting a pair of legs, “Val” (officially named “R5″ by NASA) is a 1.9 meter tall, 125 kilogram, (6-foot 2-inch, 275-pound) rescue robot that can walk over multiple kinds of terrain, climb a ladder, use tools, and even drive.

According to an extensive article about the new robot in IEEE Spectrum, “This means that Valkyrie has to be capable of operating in the same spaces that a person would operate in, under the control of humans who have only minimal training with robots, which is why the robot’s design is based on a human form.”

Why is NASA building more robots? The thinking is that NASA could send human-like robots to Mars before they send humans. Right now, Valkyrie is not space-rated, but the team at JSC is just getting started.

She’s loaded with cameras, LIDAR, SONAR, is strong and powerful, and is just a great-looking robot.

“We really wanted to design the appearance of this robot to be one that was, when you saw it you’d say, wow, that’s awesome.” Nicolaus Radford, Project and Group Lead at the Dexterous Robotics Lab and JSC.

A concept drawing of what eventually became Valkyrie, Johnson Space Center's entry in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. Credit: NASA, via DARPA.

A concept drawing of what eventually became Valkyrie, Johnson Space Center’s entry in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. Credit: NASA, via DARPA.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Aqua4U December 12, 2013 at 2:42 PM

Easy to see the advantage of sending dozens of these, or similar, to build structures and install materials extraction and processing equipment on Luna and/or Mars to prep for humans. Wouldn’t you just love to operate one via citizen-scientist telepresence?

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