NASA’s Valkyrie: being readied for a ride into space

Another of yesterday’s flights of fancy has taken a step toward becoming today’s reality.

As NASA has stated for some time, robots will play an increasingly significant role in space exploration. Robots can work longer hours under harsher conditions with far less and more easily met maintenance requirements than humans. Being able to augment a human crew with robots is an important capability for NASA’s future.

This week NASA announced grants to academic groups under which it would provide funds to develop its Valkyrie robot over the next two years. The Valkyrie is designated R5 in NASA’s robot development line.

Valkyrie is impressive from an “it looks like a human” standpoint. The robot stands 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs approximately 280 pounds. A few of the cameras and other sensors are encased in a sort of “son of a storm trooper” head.

Valkyrie is equipped with LIDAR, a laser system which measures distances and is used for navigation and the movement of limbs when performing tasks. The robot has four cameras and over 200 sensors scattered over its frame.

The pic inserted shows a Valkyrie bent over a bench about to pick something up. The inset in the upper left hand corner shows the view from the Valkyrie’s camera while the main image shows what the Valkyrie sees.

If Valkyrie develops as planned NASA sees the robot as included in an unmanned mission to Mars in the 2020’s and will accompany astronauts to Mars in the manned mission. Imagine the television transmissions of humanoid robots walking on the surface of another planet!
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