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NASA's Million Dollar Robotics Contest for Mission to Mars

Aug 19, 2016 03:29 AM EDT
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NASA holds $1M robotics contest for their mission to Mars.
(Photo : Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In partnership with the Space Center Houston, NineSigma, and the Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA has opened registrations for their new competition. The Space Robotics Challenge will award $1 million to a team who can push the boundaries of robotics, which is part of NASA's Centennial Challenges program.

Teams will have to program a virtual robot, which is modelled after NASA's Robonaut 5 (R5). R5, also called Valkyrie, will be thrust into a Mars-like habitat. Teams will works in a series of tasks in a simulated environment that includes periods of latency, which represents the delay of communication between Earth and Mars. Each of the team has three objectives in the mission held in a virtual environment: fix a habitat leak, repair a solar array, and align a communications dish.

"Precise and dexterous robotics, able to work with a communications delay, could be used in spaceflight and ground missions to Mars and elsewhere for hazardous and complicated tasks, which will be crucial to support our astronauts," stated Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA's Centennial Challenges, adding, "NASA and our partners are confident that the public will rise to this challenge, and are excited to see what innovative technologies will be produced."

Interested teams can register for the Space Robotics Challenge. The qualifying round runs from mid-September up until mid-November. Finalists will be announced by December, and they'll be able to do practice rounds until the final competition held in June 2017.

The Centennial Challenges program is part of NASA's Space Technology Mission Doctorate (STMD), which is managed at Marshall Space Flight Center. STMD makes use of challenges to gather the best and the brightest in the government, industry, and academia to drive innovation as well as enable solutions. Innovators are currently invited to be contributors to the space agency's journey to Mars.

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