Does NASA Have a Robotics Strategy? Did It Ever Have One?

Military pushes for emergency robots as skeptics worry about lethal uses, Washington Post

"Most of the [DARPA Robotics Challenge] entrants resemble humans, with two arms and two legs, and could be cast in Hollywood's next futuristic blockbuster. But there is also "CHIMP," developed by Carnegie Mellon University, a squat, long-armed machine that uses wheeled treads to get around. Another, named "RoboSimian," is a four-legged "ape-like" creature developed by NASA that, depending on how its limbs are situated, is also strikingly arachnid-like."

NASA Centennial Challenges Program: Space Robotics Challenge Request for information, NASA MSFC

"The robots involved as testbeds for the challenge would be both the Valkyrie and Robonaut 2 humanoids, as examples of surface and in-space robots. ... The target platforms for this challenge are the Valkyrie and Robonaut 2 robots at NASA JSC. ... Valkyrie and Robonaut 2 platforms would be available for preparing for the final challenge. Robots would be accessible at NASA Johnson Space Center, and NASA is currently seeking separate proposals for hosting Valkyrie robots around the country."

Keith's note: The next event is 5-6 June in Pomona, CA. There is no mention from NASA or JPL about Robosimian's participation in this event. JSC's Valkyrie robot is a no-show since it placed last in 2013 (they are not listed as a qualified team). Is JSC still funding Valkyrie? Is NASA HQ? The Centennial Challenges RFI seemingly speaks of Valkyrie as if it is still a viable ongoing/future program. But it is not clear who pays for it. What is JPL spending on Robosimian? Why is it not part of the Centennial Challenge effort along with Robonaut and Valkyrie? How are Valkyrie and Robosimian related to Robonaut? Does NASA actually have a coherent, focused robotics program or are various centers and directorates just doing whatever they want (because they can/lack of managerial guidance)? NASA spends all this money on these cool things, puts out a few flashy news things, and then they go silent about what they are doing. If you ask for a plan, they have none to offer and they just mumble #JourneyToMars and #YearInSpace.

If there is a strategy here, I do not see it.

Keith's update: I stand corrected NASA has posted 2015 NASA Technology Roadmaps: Robotics and Autonomous Systems. I am not sure that a "roadmap" is a "strategy" or a formal "plan" - but this is NASA, so words like these are never clearly or consistently defined and are often used interchangeably. To my earlier point: if you search the document for the word "Valkyrie" you will see that this robot is not mentioned. Neither is "Robosimian". But "Robonaut" is mentioned several times. Not exactly an inclusive document that references all of what NASA is doing - and why.

- NASA JSC's Valkyrie Robot Tied For Last Place in DARPA Competition, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post
- JPL Rolls Out Robosimian While JSC Hides Valkyrie, earlier post

  • submit to reddit


Kepler Communications - Aether
Baen Books - The Spacetime War by Les Johnson

Join our mailing list

Monthly Archives

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on May 17, 2015 11:11 AM.

A Bad Day for Russia was the previous entry in this blog.

Disney/Google/NASA Collaborate To Inspire Girls is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.