NASA Aims to Put Humanoid Robots in Space to Do Dangerous Jobs

By Jace Dela Cruz

Jan 02, 2024 04:58 AM EST

Human-like robots might be the next big thing in space as NASA aims to launch its humanoid robot Valkyrie in the coming years to help humans explore the moon and Mars. 

Named after supernatural females in Norse mythology, Valkyrie, which stands 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 136 kilograms, is currently being tested at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

(Photo : NASA)

Valkyrie: The Humanoid Robot of NASA

According to Reuters, NASA said Valkyrie is designed to operate in degraded or damaged human-engineered environments like areas struck by natural disasters. However, the space agency noted that humanoid robots like her could also work in space one day.

Humanoid robots, or robots that look like humans have a torso, head, two arms, and two legs. With the right software, engineers believe these robots will eventually be able to function like humans and use the same tools and equipment.

NASA Dexterous Robotics team leader Shaun Azimi noted that human-like robots in space could handle dangerous tasks such as cleaning solar panels or inspecting equipment outside the spacecraft so human astronauts could pay more attention to exploration and discovery.

According to Azimi, NASA is not trying to replace human crews, as it only wants to take "the dull, dirty and dangerous work off their plates to allow them to focus on those higher-level activities."

NASA is collaborating with Woodside Energy in Perth, Western Australia, to advance Valkyrie's robotic remote operations capabilities while increasing safety for both its personnel and the environment. NASA said the new capabilities may have applications for NASA's Artemis missions and other Earth-based robotics objectives. 

READ ALSO: Back to the moon: NASA-funded study plans to return humans to the Moon 

Apptronik Is Developing Humanoid Robot, Apollo

NASA is also partnering with robotics firm Apptronik in Austin, Texas, to know how humanoid robots developed for terrestrial purposes could benefit future human-like robots destined for space.

Apptronik is developing a humanoid robot named Apollo, whose jobs will include moving packages, stacking pallets, and other supply chain-oriented tasks in warehouses and manufacturing plants. Reuters reported that Apptronik plans to provide these humanoid robots to companies in early 2025.

Apptronik CEO Jeff Cardenas said: "The approach is 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." 

Azimi noted that those "unstructured spaces" could include space in years to come as robots are currently being designed to do many different tasks.

"Robots like Apollo are designed with modularity in mind to be able to adapt to many applications," said Azimi, adding that NASA is targeting to find out what areas it needs to look into "to bring a terrestrial system into the space environment and certified for operating in space."

READ MORE: NASA Space Selfie on Auction: Buzz Aldrin to Sell Legendary First Selfie Taken in Space

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