S16_A_Research_RobotIn its quest to send a humanoid robot to Mars, NASA has selected Northeastern as one of only two universities in the nation to conduct R&D on the 6-foot robot Valkyrie.

As NASA plans manned missions to Mars for the 2030s, these humanoid robots are being developed as part of the predeployment strategy. They will be used to set up and maintain structures, and even repair equipment until the astronauts arrive.

But first, scientists at Northeastern and MIT must boost the robot’s readiness.

Starting in February, the Northeastern team—engineers, computer scientists, and robotics experts—began work on technology that will improve the robot’s ability to traverse rough terrain, climb ladders, open doors, and grasp unknown objects. The goal is to enhance the capabilities of the robot so it can act autonomously in extreme environments.

Taskin Padir, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, serves as principal investigator of a team that includes Robert Platt, an assistant professor in the College of Computer and Information Science. Their experience in controlling humanoid robots and manipulation led NASA to select the Northeastern team.

“We believe having this humanoid robot as a research platform, combined with the growing enthusiasm among Northeastern students to join our team, will enable us to explore new interdisciplinary research directions in robotics,” says Padir.

Photo: NASA