NASA Challenges People To Use Its Broken Robot To Fix Things on Mars

Notice of Centennial Challenges Space Robotics Challenge

"The following virtual challenge scenario serves as a backdrop for developing coding advancements that enable the autonomy of humanoid robotics: In the not too distant future, R5 as arrived on Mars along with supplies ahead of a human mission. Overnight a dust storm damaged the habitat and solar array, and caused the primary communication antenna to become misaligned. R5 must now repair an air leak in the habitat, deploy a new solar panel, and align the communication antenna. Teams will use software to control a simulated R5 in order to resolve the problems caused by the dust storm. ... The competition arena will contain a rover, solar panels, communication dish, and a habitat on a Martian plain. Each component will be within eyesight and walking distance of each other."

Keith's note: Gee, this sounds like a summary of "The Martian" including the notion that wind on Mars is powerful enough to mess with the main communication antenna.

"In 2035, NASA astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and mechanical engineer, has been left stranded on Mars after the crew of the Ares III mission were forced to evacuate their landing site in Acidalia Planitia due to an intense dust storm with high winds. Watney was impaled by an antenna during the evacuation and believed dead. His injury proves relatively minor, but with no way to contact Earth, Watney must rely on his own resourcefulness to survive."

The Droid That NASA Should Be Sending To Mars, earlier post

"While NASA pours money into its goofy R5 robot that cannot walk unless it is on a hoist, controlled by a human, and is always broken, Boston Dynamics continues to make astonishing progress on autonomous robots."

It is a little odd that NASA is issuing a challenge that focuses on a functional (but simulated) R5 robot when NASA's R5 does not even work - and two college teams have been given contracts to fix what NASA can't fix. One would think that the R5 problems would be solved before people spent a lot of time using its current design to create simulations of how a real robot might work. Indeed, wouldn't it make more sense to use state of the art robots that already exist? You'd think that NASA would encourage people to work with robots that actually work. As currently designed R5 would be part of the problem on Mars - not the solution.

- Using a Last Place Robot for NASA's Robotics Challenge
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post
- Is JSC's R5 Droid Worth Fixing?
- Never Ask NASA a Simple Question, earlier post
- NASA Awards Two Robots to University Groups for R&D Upgrades, earlier post

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on August 17, 2016 3:29 PM.

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