NASA Plans Autonomous Robots To Explore Planets

NASA is offering $1.5 million in prizes hoping to spur development of autonomous robots for planetary exploration.


(Autonomous sampling robot concept)

Competing robots must retrieve samples such as colored tennis balls, blocks of aluminum or rocks spread across a landscape filled with soft soils, rocks, trees and bodies of water — all without human guidance or GPS navigation to simulate the challenges of exploring other planets. The contest is scheduled to take place at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass., from today through Sunday (June 15 – 17).

"Rovers that might have to do this someday on Mars or another planet don't have the luxury of operating with human guidance," said Mason Peck, NASA's chief technologist...

The six teams remaining from the final 11 chosen for the competition must show their robots can autonomously navigate and retrieve a hidden sample within 15 minutes to win a Level-1 prize of up to $5,000 per team (split from a prize purse of $50,000). The robots must also remain autonomous at all times and retrieve many other samples within a two-hour time limit to win the much bigger Level-2 prize — up to $1.5 million split among winning teams based on point score.

SF film fans are immediately reminded of a famous fictional autonomous robotic explorer of ice planets - namely, the feared Imperial Probe Droid from Star Wars in 1980.


(Star Wars Imperial Probe Droid)

Via Space.

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