NASA Robots to Compete in Underground Challenge in Mining Tunnels -


Robots are about to go underground -- for a competition anyways. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the branch of the U.S. Department of Defense dedicated to developing new emerging technologies, is holding a challenge intended to develop technology for first responders and the military to map, navigate, and search underground. But the technology developed for the competition could also be used in future NASA missions to caves and lava tubes on other planets. The DARPA Subterranean Challenge Systems Competition will be held August 15 – 22 in mining tunnels under Pittsburgh, and among the robots competing will be an entry from a team led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) that features wheeled rovers, drones, and climbing robots that can rise on pinball-flipper-shaped treads to scale obstacles. "By investing in this competition, we are investing in our future," Leon Alkalai, manager of the JPL Office of Strategic Planning, said in a statement.