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UNM team qualifies for second phase of NASA Robotics Challenge

January 25, 2021 - by Kim Delker

NASA Space Robotics Challenge logo

A team from The University of New Mexico has qualified for the second phase of the NASA Space Robotics Challenge, which is striving to make it easier for future astronauts to survive and explore on distant planets.

The UNM Swarmathon team, based in the Department of Computer Science, won $5,000 in the first phase, said Matthew Fricke, research professor in the Department of Computer Science, who is advisor to the team. UNM is among 22 teams from around the globe to advance to the next phase.

The international competition was developed in partnership by Space Center Houston and NASA Centennial Challenges and focuses on developing fully-autonomous robotic system operations, navigation and decision-making capabilities that will be tested on robotic systems within a simulated lunar environment.

The challenge is a part of Space Center Houston’s Innovation Gateway community science initiative. This program empowers the public with authentic learning experiences that contribute to real scientific research. The Innovation Gateway community science initiative enables everyone to be an active part of the future of space exploration. This software challenge requires participants to develop fully- autonomous operations, navigation and decision-making capabilities that will be tested on planetary robotic systems within a simulation environment. The first phase of the Space Robotics Challenge awarded winners in 2017 and focused specifically on advancing autonomous capabilities for NASA’s Valkyrie robot (also known as Robonaut 5 or R5). Phase two of the Space Robotics Challenge focuses on advancing autonomous robotic systems that will operate on the surface of the moon and collect and process useful materials. The competition round is now through July, with winners being announced in September. Those interested can follow the competition through

US map showing where participating teams are from