NASA is hosting a competition for autonomous rovers, dubbed as the Sample Return Robot Challenge, at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts next month. The challenge, one of the many projects that NASA is sponsoring, was originally announced in 2010. NASA is looking for an autonomous rover that can be sent on planetary missions in the future. The Sample Return Robot Challenge will involve unmanned robots – approximately 1.5 cubic meters and 175 pounds – that are capable of navigating and exploring varied terrains and environments while searching and collecting items.

However, the autonomous rovers will need to accomplish the tasks without the aid of a GPS or any Earth-based systems including the Internet. The rovers will also not be allowed to use  air-cooling or ultrasonic Rangefinders because of the lack of air in other planetary environments. NASA is reportedly spending $1.5 million on the contest that will be held this coming June 16. A total of 11 teams from across the U.S. and Canada will be competing during the said date. Some of the contenders include the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Waterloo, SpacePRIDE and True Vision Robotics.

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