Pasadena, CA – On August 15th through the 22nd, robots from all over the world will compete to find objects in the DARPA Subterranean Challenge Systems Competition held in mining tunnels under Pittsburgh.
Among them will be a team led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, that features wheeled rovers, drones and climbing robots that can rise on pinball-flipper-shaped treads to scale obstacles.
Clarksville, TN – When recent Austin Peay State University (APSU) graduate Jordan Miller starts at Arizona State University this year, she’ll also enter a cutting-edge National Science Foundation-backed smart homes and cities program.
Mountain View, CA – Bees are known to be both busy and hard-working, and NASA’s new free-flying space robots, called Astrobee, will soon have the same reputation. Unlike bees that live on Earth, the robots will do their work flying alongside astronauts inside the International Space Station and will play a critical role in supporting innovative and sustainable exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond.
Astrobee is a free-flying robot system that will provide a research platform for the orbiting laboratory. The system includes three robots—named Honey, Queen and Bumble— as well as a docking station for recharging.
Hampton, VA – In NASA’s Langley Research Center’s makerspace lab in Hampton, Virginia, Chuck Sullivan and Jack Fitzpatrick are developing a series of soft robot actuators. “What we’re investigating is the viability of soft robotics in space exploration and assembly,” said Sullivan.
While the word ‘robot’ conjures images of metal arms and gears, soft robotic actuators are bioinspired, looking at the way nature works to create new robot movements.
Washington, D.C. – NASA says space exploration brings humanity some of its greatest challenges and opportunities. We faced this hard fact on April 11th when the Beresheet spacecraft developed by Israel’s SpaceIL failed to successfully land on the Moon’s surface.
While the Beresheet spacecraft can claim many accomplishments, including being the first privately funded lunar spacecraft, we can learn many things from its failures. These are lessons we, too, must consider as NASA tries to conquer similar challenges as we move forward to the Moon with commercial and international partners.
Written by Andrew Good
Pasadena, CA – Mt. Erebus is at the end of our world — and offers a portal to another.
It’s our planet’s southernmost active volcano, reaching 12,448 feet (3,794 meters) above Ross Island in Antarctica. Temperatures at the surface are well below freezing most of the year, but that doesn’t stop visits from scientists: Erebus is also one of the few volcanoes in the world with an exposed lava lake. You can peer over the lip of its main crater and stare straight into it.
It’s also a good stand-in for a frozen alien world, the kind NASA wants to send robots to someday.
Written by Andrew Good
Pasadena, CA – In 1999, six career firefighters lost their lives responding to a five-alarm fire. They were part of a group of 73 dispatched to a smoke-filled warehouse in Worcester, Massachusetts. Lost inside the building’s tight corners, they were unable to find an exit before running out of oxygen.
Avoiding a tragedy like that has been a technical challenge for decades. In the outdoors, firefighters can use GPS to track one another, and radios to stay in communication. But when they move into a steel and concrete building, these technologies suddenly become unreliable.
Written by Andrew Good
Pasadena, CA – Throw a baseball, and you might say it’s all in the wrist.
For robots, it’s all in the gears.
Gears are essential for precision robotics. They allow limbs to turn smoothly and stop on command; low-quality gears cause limbs to jerk or shake. If you’re designing a robot to scoop samples or grip a ledge, the kind of gears you’ll need won’t come from a hardware store.
At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, technologist Douglas Hofmann and his collaborators are building a better gear.
Written by Gina Anderson
Washington, D.C. – Humanoid robots will be helpful to astronauts on our journey to Mars, so NASA has awarded prototypes to two universities for advanced research and development work.
NASA is interested in humanoid robots because they can help or even take the place of astronauts working in extreme space environments. Robots, like NASA’s R5, could be used in future NASA missions either as precursor robots performing mission tasks before humans arrive or as human-assistive robots actively collaborating with the human crew.
Written by David Israel
Pasadena, CA – Miami Speedway in Homestead, FL, was the place to be late last month for an unusual two-day competition: the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials. But if you went expecting high-octane cars zooming around the track at blazing speed, you might have been disappointed.
The 16 robots participating in the challenge moved more like the tortoise than the hare, as they performed such tasks as opening doors or climbing a ladder; tasks aimed to speed the development of robots that could one day perform a number of critical, real-world, emergency-response tasks at natural and human-made disaster sites.
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