A humanoid robot built by NASA has been assigned the job of conducting the space agency’s missions on Mars; and now, NASA wants top universities of the country to develop special computer algorithms and software for allowing the robot work efficiently in space.

The 6ft tall R5 or Valkyrie was originally invented by the American space agency for assisting humans during disaster relief missions. However, the humanoid robot, which weighs 132 kg or 290 lbs, also turned out to be suitable for deployment on celestial bodies like Mars.

NASA has designed Valkyrie to be as skillful as the humans. It comes with a pair of arms boasting as much as seven degrees of freedom. The legs and hands of the humanoid robot, on the other hand, demonstrate freedom of six degrees. Even the machine’s pelvis comes with freedom of three degrees.

Instead of putting the life of a human at risk by sending him or her to a planet with hostile conditions inapt for humans (for instance, thin atmosphere with extremely low level of oxygen, radiation, etc.), NASA is looking to send autonomous robots to the red planet for carrying out a series of experiments as a part of its Mars mission. The agency has also plans of utilizing the robots for assisting humans once they arrive on Mars.

The agency might have successfully completed the job of building the hardware, but it still needs the machine to be backed by advanced software. As a result, it has decided to send the humanoid robot to the Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) of MIT and Northwestern University for getting fresh computer algorithms built for its Mars missions.

Must Read: NASA sends its humanoid robot to MIT for developing software for Mars

The team of experts at both the institutions will be receiving a hefty sum of $250,000 as funding annually for a couple of years. During these two years, the teams will require to create new algorithms.

Upon completion of this period, the two humanoid robots will be competing against each other by participating in the agency’s Space Robotics Challenge. The robot that will be proved to be better equipped for surviving in deep space will be declared the winner. NASA has planned this project taking inspiration from the DARPA Robotics Challenge.