NASA's Robot Revolution: From Oil Rigs to Space Missions

NASA's Shaun Azimi on Public-Private Efforts, Solving Dexterity Challenges
Shaun Azimi, technical discipline lead for robotics and leader, dexterous robotics team, NASA Johnson Space Center

Robotics technology is reshaping the landscape of space exploration. As NASA ventures further into the cosmos, "robots can be a great tool for humanity to extend our reach beyond the limitations of our own physical bodies," according to NASA Johnson Space Center robotics expert Shaun Azimi.

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NASA developed a humanoid robot named Valkyrie to navigate the rubble of "damaged human-engineered environments" in the aftermath of natural disasters, accidents or industrial mishaps. Valkyrie is currently being tested by Woodside Energy in Australia to handle dangerous jobs on offshore oil rigs. To operate in harsh environments - and ultimately space missions - humanoids need advanced programming and dexterity, and they must be "rugged and reliable," Azimi said.

"NASA is currently in the process of the annual campaign review for our moon-to-Mars architecture. Through that process, we are defining the use cases and functions and the elements of the architecture," said Azimi, technical discipline lead for robotics and leader, dexterous robotics team. "Robotics is one of the solutions that could be used for creating a sustainable presence in space."

In this video interview with Information Security Media Group, Azimi also discussed:

  • NASA's collaboration with industry partners to leverage commercial advancements in robotics technology;
  • The need for flexible robotic solutions to adapt to emergent circumstances in hazardous industrial environments such as nuclear power plants;
  • The challenges in designing robots for multitasking and extreme environments.

Azimi is responsible for developing the strategic vision for NASA robotics technology development, supporting human space exploration, and coordinating with NASA programs, other government agencies and commercial partners. He has more than 20 years of experience in researching and developing robotics and autonomous systems.

About the Author

Brian Pereira

Brian Pereira

Sr. Director - Editorial, ISMG

Pereira has nearly three decades of journalism experience. He is the former editor of CHIP, InformationWeek and CISO MAG. He has also written for The Times of India and The Indian Express.

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