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NASA just launched a $1m space robot competition

Fancy shaping the future of space travel?

NASA just launched a $1m space robot competition

The new series of Robot Wars is fantastic. Properly brilliant.

It makes us want to head out to the nearest B&Q, buy a chainsaw and stick it on an RC car. Except we probably won't, because we don't know the first thing about robotics. 

If we did, we'd skip Robot Wars and think about entering NASA's new competition: the Space Robotics Challenge. 

Top prize? $1 million (£759,670).

What's the competition for?

Space Robotics Challenge is a chance to help shape the Robonaut 5 - the robot that NASA is hoping to take to Mars.

The R5 is a very clever robot: rather than using hydraulics - which have a nasty habit of freezing in space - it uses elastics to move its limbs and hands. NASA has designed it with the intention of sending it to Mars ahead of humans, to set up habitats, life-support systems, communications and solar apparatuses, and even begin preliminary scientific research.

NASA has launched the competition to encourage teams to develop new software for the R5, programming it in clever ways to cope in the harsh environment of Mars, and cope with being a reeeeally long way from the control team back on Earth.

What do they have to do?

Teams who register to compete in the challenge will have to program the R5 in a virtual environment that has been ravaged by a dust storm. They must complete three tasks that sound straight out of The Martian:

  • Align a communications dish
  • Repair a solar array
  • Fix a leak in a habitat

It's hoped that the software developed as a result of the competition could help more of NASA's robotics projects, and benefit robotic systems used on boring old Earth.

Fancy applying?

If you think you've got the programming knowledge to shape the future of space travel, you can sign up here

Otherwise, you can join us on the sofa for Robot Wars this Sunday.