NASA’s Human-like Robot in Space: The Future Evolution

NASA’s Human-like Robot in Space: The Future Evolution
NASA’s Human-like Robot in Space: The Future Evolution

NASA’s Valkyrie robot is undergoing testing at Houston, Texas’ Johnson Space Center, and is intended to function in “degraded or damaged human-engineered environments.”

NASA’s humanoid robot Valkyrie is a massive machine, standing 6 feet 2 inches (188 centimeters) tall and weighing 300 pounds (136 kg).

NASA claims that Valkyrie, which is being tested at the Johnson Space Center near Houston, Texas, is named after a female character from Norse mythology and is intended to function in “degraded or damaged human-engineered environments,” such as those affected by natural disasters.

However, robots similar to hers might eventually function in space.

A humanoid robot has a head, torso, two arms, and two legs, much like a real person. Engineers predict that in the future, humanoid robots will be able to use human tools and equipment and perform in a manner akin to humans with the correct software.

Humanoid robots in space may be able to perform dangerous jobs like cleaning solar panels or examining broken equipment outside the spacecraft, freeing up astronauts to focus on exploration and discovery, according to NASA Dexterous Robotics Team Leader Shaun Azimi.

“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,” Azimi stated.

NASA is collaborating with robotics firms such as Apptronik, located in Austin, Texas, to find out how humanoid robots created for Earth applications could help with future humanoid robots going into space.

Apollo is a humanoid robot being developed by Apptronik. Its earthly duties will include transporting parcels, stacking pallets, and performing other supply chain-related jobs at warehouses and manufacturing facilities. Early in 2025, the company hopes to begin supplying humanoid robots to businesses.

Nick Paine, chief technology officer of Apptronik, stated that Apollo had certain advantages over its human counterparts, especially in terms of endurance.

“We’re targeting having this system online 22 hours a day,” Paine stated. “This does have a swappable battery, so you can work for four hours, swap the battery, and then keep going for a very quick duration.”

The potential for Apollo’s capabilities is endless as new software and advancements are made, according to Apptronik CEO Jeff Cardenas.

“The approach is that we’re starting in the warehouse and on the manufacturing floor, but then it can move into retail, to delivery, and out more into what we call unstructured spaces,” Cardenas explained.

According to Azimi, the “unstructured spaces” may eventually incorporate space.

“Robots like Apollo are designed with modularity in mind to be able to adapt to many applications,” Azimi stated. “And that’s where NASA’s really trying to get that insight—to see what the key gaps are and where we would need to invest in the future to bring a terrestrial system into the space environment and be certified for operating in space.”

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