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NASA’s First Bipedal Humanoid Robot Is Designed To “Support Our Astronauts” On Mars

PHOTO DATE: 12-12-13 LOCATION: Bldg. 32B - Valkyrie Lab SUBJECT: High quality, production photos of Valkyrie Robot for PAO PHOTOGRAPHERS: BILL STAFFORD, JAMES BLAIR, REGAN GEESEMAN

If there’s one thing I know about small teams of astronauts engaged in interplanetary exploration, it’s that at least one member of the team has to be a robot. (I learned everything I know about space travel from Alien and Aliens, okay?) Luckily, NASA is up to speed on that rule, and they’ll be prepping their first-ever bipedal robot, The Robonaut 5, to attend and support the team on future Mars missions.

The robot’s name is Valkyrie, by the way, and the official description from NASA explains that, yes, it’s “a name taken from Norse mythology.” Valkyries are female figures, historically. NASA’s documentation avoids using a gender pronoun for Valkyrie, but for some reason, Blastr‘s coverage genders Valkyrie as male. Now, I don’t know if Valkyrie has been programmed to have any form of gender expression or not (unlike, say, Alexa and Siri and Cortana, whose language patterns line up with how women are socialized to speak). Regardless, the name “Valkyrie” has an undoubtedly femme implication, and a pretty bad-ass one at that!

Valkyrie hasn’t yet been programmed to do the job required, however, and so NASA is hosting a competition inviting robotics programmers to rise to the occasion. The winner gets $1 million, plus the pride of knowing that they contributed to ensuring that Valkyrie can aid astronauts on Mars!

Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges, detailed the capabilities that need to be programmed for Valkyrie: “Precise and dexterous robotics, able to work with a communications delay, could be used in spaceflight and ground missions to Mars and elsewhere for hazardous and complicated tasks, which will be crucial to support our astronauts. NASA and our partners are confident the public will rise to this challenge, and are excited to see what innovative technologies will be produced.”

Please also remember to program Valkyrie to be our friend!

(via Blastr, image via NASA)

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (, and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (