If you attended PDC2008 recently you could not have missed that NASA was there along with guys from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to talk about the great work they do. The tie-in of course if that we recently launched the next challenge at http://www.robochamps.com. This series of challenges gives you the opportunity to write code to have a robot solve a particular challenge. The first challenge had your robot trying to solve a maze. The second challenge was to win at Robot Sumo. Recently there was a challenge to have a robotic car navigate around a simulated city while avoiding other cars and obeying the rules of the road. In this challenge our sponsor KIA Motors actually put up a car as a prize!.
In our latest challenge you have to have your robotic rover trundle across the surface of mars and collect data to transmit back to base! Like every challenge though, expect the unexpected and of course as its mars the rover is going to have to deal with rough terrain. You can read more about the challenge here - http://www.robochamps.com/rc/Common/challenge.aspx?id=Mars
If you do not have the time to write your code line by line consider taking a look at VPL or Visual Programming Language. In our latest challenges you can actually use VPL to control your robot and even link up an Xbox controller so you can drive your robot the old fashioned way. Of course once you get tired of driving the robot with a joystick the next step would be to have VPL control the robot autonomously and respond and take action from its various sensors.
Microsoft Dynamics ISV Architect Evangelist