NASA is hell bent on making the Mission Mars a great success and in order to do so, it wants all the bases to get covered. Taking into account the difficulties that astronauts may face while setting up habitats on the Mars, NASA has opened registration for a new USD 1 million prize competition that aims to develop the capabilities of humanoid robots to help astronauts on their journey. So the ball is in public’s court now.
The competition is called “The Space Robotics Challenge”. NASA is organising the competition in partnership with Space Centre Houston and NineSigma which is a global innovation consultant organisation. The competition will be held in a virtual environment. The participating teams would be required to programme a virtual robot modelled after NASA’s Robonaut 5 (R5) robot.
Each team’s R5 will be challenged with resolving the aftermath of a dust storm that has damaged a Martian habitat. This will involve three objectives in total: aligning a communicating dish, repairing a solar array and fixing a habitat leak. The qualifying rounds for the competition will run from mid-September to mid-November. Finalists of these rounds will be announced in December who will then take part in open practice from January to early June 2017.
The final virtual competition will be held in June 2017 and the winners will be announced by June end. This is to note that with the technology generated by this competition, robots would be able to participate in the precursor missions to select landing sites, arriving long before astronauts to set up habitats, life support systems, communications and solar apparatuses. These robots may even begin primary scientific research. These robots can be very useful when the tasks are hazardous and complicated and may pose a risk to the life of the astronauts.