NASA has partnered with Texas-based robotics firm Apptronik, Inc. to advance the development of humanoid robots for space exploration. The collaboration aims to adapt and enhance the capabilities of Apptronik’s Apollo robot, which is designed for terrestrial tasks such as logistics, manufacturing, and home healthcare assistance.
Apptronik has prioritized the modularity of Apollo’s design, making it adaptable for various tasks. Standing at 5’8″ tall and weighing 160 pounds, Apollo has a run time of approximately four hours per battery pack and a payload capacity of 55 pounds. Although currently targeting Earth-based markets like retail operations, warehousing, and manufacturing, the versatility of Apollo makes it appealing to NASA for potential use in orbit, on the moon, and even on Mars.
The flexibility of Apollo allows for reprogrammability and physical customization. It already features varying levels of dexterity, autonomous functions, and interchangeable tools. As the development progresses, additional functionality is expected to evolve.
NASA has been leveraging its decades of expertise in robotics to support the development of Apollo. Areas of collaboration include robotic mobility and software design principles for safe human-robot interactions. The agency aims to foster innovation in this field and enhance the use of robotics technology in both Earth-based and space exploration applications.
Integrating humanoid robots into future NASA missions, particularly within the Artemis program, could be instrumental in establishing a sustainable human presence on the moon and ultimately on Mars. These robots would enable astronauts to focus on scientific pursuits while robots handle tasks such as construction, sample collection, and operating and maintaining mining and manufacturing facilities on other worlds.
The incorporation of robots in space missions would significantly reduce costs by processing native resources in situ and avoiding the need to transport materials from Earth. By collaborating with private robotics companies, like Apptronik, NASA can tap into the maturity and expertise of the industry while benefiting the economy at large.
Overall, the partnership between NASA and Apptronik demonstrates the agency’s commitment to advancing robotics technology for space exploration, ultimately paving the way for safer and more efficient missions beyond Earth.