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Spaceward Foundation and NASA create US$250,000 Telerobotic Challenge

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June 15, 2006

June 16, 2006 Following the success of the 2005 Space Elevator competition held at NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Spaceward Foundation today announced the Telerobotic Construction Challenge, a new competition with $250,000 in prize purses that has the potential to significantly impact the nation’s space exploration program by developing technologies enabling semiautonomous robots to perform complex construction tasks with minimal human intervention.

The Telerobotic Construction Challenge will be conducted in an arena containing structural building blocks scattered about. The task will be to assemble the structure using multiple robotic agents controlled remotely by humans who can only see and talk to the robots through communications equipment that simulates an Earth-Mars time delay and restrictions. To be successful, the robots will have to be smart enough to work together with only intermittent human direction.

A detailed set of rules for the competition is now available for public comment at www.spaceward.org/rra.html.

“The Telerobotic Challenge may directly affect how exploration is conducted on the moon,” said NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, Dr. Scott Horowitz. “If the Telerobotic Construction Challenge can successfully demonstrate the remote assembly of simple and complex structures, many aspects of exploration in general will be affected for the better.”

"The Telerobotic Construction Challenge is directly linked to NASAís current focus on lunar exploration," said Brant Sponberg, NASA’s Centennial Challenges program manager. “Spaceward has shown their capability to conduct a successful prize competition, and we look to them again to help advance a new technology, telerobotic construction in this case.”

"Spaceward is pleased to expand on our prior collaboration with NASA to conduct the Centennial Challenges Telerobotic Construction Competition," said Spaceward President, Metzada Shelef. "Because of the high degree of student interest in robotics, it is a great fit with our mission to advance space science and technology in education." she added.

About NASA's Centennial Challenges: NASA’s Centennial Challenges promotes technical innovation through a novel program of prize competitions. It is designed to tap the nation’s ingenuity to make revolutionary advances to support the Vision for Space Exploration and NASA goals. NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate manages the program.

About Spaceward: The Spaceward Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization dedicated to furthering the cause of space access in educational curriculums and the public.

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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