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NASA's Valkyrie and Apollo: Humanoid Robots Revolutionising Space Exploration

In a groundbreaking development, NASA's humanoid robot Valkyrie is paving the way for future space exploration.

Standing at an impressive 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 300 pounds, Valkyrie is designed to operate in degraded or damaged environments, such as areas affected by natural disasters. However, NASA believes that humanoid robots like Valkyrie could also play a crucial role in space missions.


A humanoid robot closely resembles a human, with a torso, head, two arms and two legs. Engineers are confident that with the right software, these robots will be able to function similarly to humans and use the same tools and equipment. This opens up a world of possibilities for their involvement in space exploration.

Shaun Azimi, the NASA Dexterous Robotics Team Leader, envisions humanoid robots in space taking on risky tasks such as cleaning solar panels or inspecting malfunctioning equipment outside the spacecraft. By delegating these tasks to robots, astronauts can focus on more critical activities related to exploration and discovery.


Azimi emphasises that the goal is not to replace human crews but to alleviate them from dull, dirty and dangerous work. "We're not trying to replace human crews, we're really just trying to take the dull, dirty and dangerous work off their plates to allow them to focus on those higher-level activities," he said.


To further advance the capabilities of humanoid robots for space missions, NASA is collaborating with robotics companies like Apptronik. Apptronik is developing Apollo, a humanoid robot designed for terrestrial purposes, such as working in warehouses and manufacturing plants. The company plans to start providing these robots to companies by early 2025.


Nick Paine, the Chief Technology Officer of Apptronik, highlights the advantages of Apollo over human workers, particularly in terms of endurance. He explains that the system is designed to be operational for 22 hours a day, with the ability to quickly swap batteries and continue working.


Jeff Cardenas, the CEO of Apptronik, believes that as software and development progress, Apollo's abilities will expand beyond warehouses and manufacturing floors. He envisions the robot moving into retail, delivery and eventually venturing into unstructured spaces. And according to Azimi, these unstructured spaces could include space itself.


NASA aims to gain insights from terrestrial systems like Apollo to identify key gaps and invest in the future development of humanoid robots certified for space operations.


The modularity of robots like Apollo allows for adaptability to various applications, making them suitable for the challenging environment of space.


As the boundaries of technology continue to be pushed, humanoid robots are poised to become an integral part of space exploration. With their ability to perform tasks that are risky or mundane for humans, these robots will enable astronauts to focus on the most critical aspects of their missions.

 
  • NASA's humanoid robot Valkyrie is being tested for operation in degraded or damaged environments and could potentially be used in space missions.

  • Humanoid robots closely resemble humans and can function similarly with the right software.

  • Robots like Valkyrie and Apollo can handle risky tasks in space, allowing astronauts to prioritise exploration and discovery.


Source: REUTERS

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