Valkyrie robot

This is not yet the stuff of "The Martian," the Hollywood blockbuster about surviving on the Red Planet. For one thing, the tiny holes that prevent Val from overheating could get clogged up by spiraling Martian dust. But a sturdier exterior will come later.

There are still another two decades before NASA aims to land humans on Mars in the mid-2030s, said Johnson Space Center spokesman Jay Bolden. Now is the time, he said, to build the computer code that will make the robots useful in hostile environments. If not the Valkyries, it will be their descendants serving as the android vanguard that could make human life possible on Mars.

Above: Student researchers Jordan Allspaw, foreground left, and Murphy Wonsick watch a Valkyrie robot walk slowly at University of Massachusetts-Lowell's robotics center in Lowell, Mass.

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