NASA robots land at MIT and Northeastern

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration  has awarded experimental robots to Northeastern University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where engineers will try to teach the human-shaped machines to do useful work in space.

NASA designed the R5 Valkyrie robot to assist humans in dealing with natural disasters. But the agency is also interested in modifications that would let the machines assist human astronauts during long-duration space missions, such as trips to the planet Mars.

“Advances in robotics, including human-robotic collaboration, are critical to developing the capabilities required for our journey to Mars,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA. “We are excited to engage these university research groups to help NASA with this next big step in robotics technology development.”

An MIT team led by associate professor Russ Tedrake will get one of the R5 machines; the other will go to Northeastern engineers led by associate professor Taskin Padir. The teams will also receive up to $250,000 a year for two years to finance their research.

Hiawatha Bray is a technology reporter for the Boston Globe. E-mail him at h_bray@globe.com.
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