NASA and Project Leader Nicolaus Radford from Dexterous Robotic Lab, NASA JSC have a vision. In the not too distant future, humans and robots will work side by side on the surface of Mars. NASA and Project Leader Radford have designed a superhuman and superhero-looking robot to lead the way. Named Valkyrie, or R5, this superhero robot may someday forge ahead of humans to the surface of Mars, preparing the planet for our ultimate arrival. Valkyrie was designed to compete with 17 other robot designers at the DARPA Robotics Challenge to be held this month in Homestead, Florida.
Each team leader will be expected to navigate their robot through several tasks that will test mobility, manipulation, dexterity and other critical mechanical functions. The winner will enter a finalist stage to be held in 2014. The final winner will receive a $2 million grand prize. Radford may have his eye on the prize; but, more importantly, he has a vision for the future. Although DARPA designed the competition to find robotic technology to help humans in a disaster scenario, Radford sees Valkyrie leading the way to Mars and working together with humans once we arrive on the planet.
Valkyrie stands 6’2″ tall and weights 275 pounds. It has a smooth surface structure and a glowing insignia in the center of its chest; it looks more like a superhero found in your favorite comic book or science fiction movie. But it is much more than that, according to Radford.
Radford stated that Valkyrie is designed on the surface to give you the “wow” factor. With its soft joints and round features, it doesn’t look like its distant predecessor. It is designed to be strong and powerful, but modular. The project team designed the robot to be disassembled within minutes and to have the ability to quickly replace parts if necessary. Valkyrie has powerful computing abilities and is self-contained with a large energy source in its back pack. It is also outfitted with numerous cameras located in the helmet, the arms, waist, knees and feet. The stomach area carries sonar for even better abilities of sensing its surroundings.
This robot is more than a good-looking Hollywood science fiction movie star. Radford believes it is a working vision for the future NASA and space exploration. “We want to get to Mars,” said Radford. “These robots will start preparing the way for the human explorers.” NASA and Radford believe that future generations of superhero robots like Valkyrie will not only lead the way of exploration, but will work hand in hand with humans on the surface of Mars. Humans and robots will work in conjunction while building habitats and working together in a tight relationship to build the foundation of colonies on Mars.
With 17 teams in the DARPA competition, Radford and his team will have stiff competition The NASA superhero robot designers hope to not only win the competition and head to the finals, but to lead the way in the future exploration of the universe. How far in the future is up to the vision and talents of teams such as these. Radford hopes that the day will come when our future generation will take the hand of support from a robot like Valkyrie and guide us on our first step onto the surface of Mars.
By Anthony Clark