NASA Crowdsources Designs For New Space Suits!FFJYD

The Z-2 Spacesuit is a next-generation spacesuit platform created in preparation for possible manned mission outside Earth’s orbit, and NASA wants you to help design it. There are three options to choose from, which go by the names “Biomimicry,” “Technology,” and “Trends in Society.”

“Biomimicry” draws on the bioluminescent qualities of aquatic creatures found at incredible depths, an environment which has often been compared to the infinite darkness of space. The design featuressegmented pleats at the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee, along with electroluminescent wire threaded into the upper torso.


The “Technology” design is a tribute to achievements of the past, as well as a nod to the future. Luminex wire and light-emitting patches could be used to form different shapes, and provide a unique way for crew members to identify one another. Collapsing pleats provide the suit greater mobility, while abrasion resistant panels on the lower torso increase its toughness.


“Trends in Society” is meant to be a reflection of what clothing could look like in the not too distant future. There are elements of sportswear and wearable technology incorporated into the design. Electroluminescent wire and patches are also used to create what could be considered high fashion for a spacesuit.


If you already know which one you would want to see on the surface of another planet, then make sure togo and vote on NASA’s website.


[h/t] HuffPost


NASA Is Calling for Coders to (Potentially) Save the World

For all of the hype, how many times has Silicon Valley actually saved the world? I appreciate a good elevator pitch as much as the next person, but the only world-saving programmers that I know of are Jeff Goldblum’s character in Independence Day and whoever was in charge of making sure the nukes didn’t all go off because of Y2K—a fictional person and a fictional problem.

But for the intrepid coder who wants to achieve Goldblum-level hero status, NASA is ready to start taking your calls next week for help spotting the next civilization-smashing asteroid swinging the solar system.

The problem isn’t that NASA isn’t able to keep watch over the solar system; the problem is that it collects more data than is reasonable to sift through. The gif on the right, via NASA, makes it look much easier than it is, but picture pulling that central asteroid out of a set of still images, while ignoring the satellites flashing around it, and other forms of noise, planets, and whatever else.  The space agency is therefore partnering with “asteroid mining company” Planetary Resources to offer $35,000 in awards over the next six months, to citizen scientists who can “develop significantly-improved algorithms to identify asteroids in images captured by ground-based telescopes.”

Winning programs have to “increase the detection sensitivity, minimize the number of false positives, ignore imperfections in the data, and run effectively on all computer systems,” according to a press release issued by NASA .

“Protecting the planet from the threat of asteroid impact means first knowing where they are,” said Jenn Gustetic, NASA’s Prizes and Challenges Program executive. “By opening up the search for asteroids, we are harnessing the potential of innovators and makers and citizen scientists everywhere to help solve this global challenge.”

And asteroids are a global challenge. While 90 percent of near-Earth objects—asteroids and comets—that are larger than a kilometer across are mapped, we can still be caught off guard by the 99 percent of objects orbiting the Sun that aren’t being tracked. In February 2013, while we were all distracted by NEA 2012 DA14, a 40,000-ton asteroid passing between Earth and its geosynchronous satellites, a meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. Just last month, NEA 2000 EM26, an asteroid three-football fields wide, buzzed Earth .

In addition to watching for threats, Planetary Resources wants to tag asteroid candidates to be redirected into orbiting around the Moon, so astronauts can explore—and one assumes, eventually extract resources from—them.

Frankly, I find it a little disconcerting that NASA is just now opening the door for any and all help. I know it’s unfair to think in binaries like this, but either the threat of disastrous asteroid impacts is under control or it isn’t, right? I guess even once asteroids are spotted, we don’t exactly have a great plan for redirecting the bringer of the apocalypse at the moment, so it’s possible that spotting the near-Earth asteroid too late just gives the rest of us someone to blame, which will be comforting in our final hours as we await the end.

Anyway, if that sounds like a job for you, or if you’re sick of people like me saying that coders will never do as much for the world as Norman Borlaug, further details are available here. Good luck; we might all be counting on you.

Nasa seeks coders to hunt asteroids

US space agency Nasa is seeking coders who could help prevent a global catastrophe by identifying asteroids that may crash into Earth.

Its Asteroid Data Hunter contest will offer $35,000 (£21,000) to programmers who can identify asteroids captured by ground-based telescopes.

The winning solution must increase the detection rate and minimise the number of false positives.

Scientists are increasingly calling for help to make sense of vast data sets.

The new improved asteroid hunting code must also be able to ignore imperfections in the data and run on all computer systems.

“Protecting the planet from the threat of asteroid impact means first knowing where they are,” said Jenn Gustetic, executive of the programme.

“By opening up the search for asteroids, we are harnessing the potential of innovators and makers and citizen scientists everywhere to solve this global challenge.”

Current asteroid detection is only tracking one percent of the estimated objects that orbit the sun, according to asteroid mining firm Planetary Resources, which is partnering with Nasa in the contest.

Human curiosity

Zooniverse is one of the leading online platforms for citizen scientists, working on a range of projects including classifying galaxies.

In February it racked up one million volunteers.

“Nasa takes these detailed pictures but there is a lot of noise out there from stars and other things and we need to write code that can find patterns in the data,” said Zooniverse team member Robert Simpson.

“This is not necessarily Nasa’s area of expertise. It is a technology problem rather than a space problem.”

He thinks that increasingly citizen scientists can contribute to important scientific discoveries and breakthroughs.

“Computers don’t have curiosity. People often find things in the data that computers can’t,” he told the BBC.

“We are creating these huge data sets but we don’t have enough scientists to analyse them,” he added.

NASA offers $35,000 to ‘citizen scientist’ asteroid hunters!FFb1w

When an undetected meteor crashed into Russia’s Ural mountains just over a year ago, it seemed to alert many people to the possibility of a much much bigger rock one day clattering into Earth and causing damage on an unthinkable scale.

Hoping to avoid such a grim scenario, NASA has just launched a series of ‘Asteroid Data Hunter’ contests with the aim of improving the way we locate these potentially destructive rocks currently whizzing around our solar system.

As if preventing the destruction of the planet isn’t enough of an incentive to set to work, the space agency is offering awards totaling $35,000 to coding wizards who can create improved algorithms to help the world’s most powerful telescopes locate, follow and evaluate the threat of asteroids heading in our general direction. The first of its contests will begin March 17, with more lined up for the next six months.

“For the past three years, NASA has been learning and advancing the ability to leverage distributed algorithm and coding skills through the NASA Tournament Lab to solve tough problems,” said Jason Crusan, NASA Tournament Lab director. “We are now applying our experience with algorithm contests to helping protect the planet from asteroid threats through image analysis.”

NASA’s Jenn Gustetic, who’s helping to run the initiative, said that “by opening up the search for asteroids, we’re harnessing the potential of innovators and makers and citizen scientists everywhere to help solve this global challenge.”

While NASA believes it has detected 95 percent of the large asteroids that travel close to Earth, it is of course extremely eager to detect all asteroids, both big and small, that pose a threat to our planet. Those deemed to be a serious danger could be redirected to a stable lunar orbit, NASA said.

This latest initiative is part of the space agency’s Grand Challenge to improve methods of asteroid discovery. The project, which launched last year, includes a range of contributors, from citizen scientists to government agencies to international partners.

For more information on how you can help save planet Earth from a messy end, click here.

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Check Out NASA’s SXSW Booth and Learn About Tiny Asteroid-Hunting Satellites

It’s probably our favorite SXSW booth because space.


There’s a lot going on at SXSW including this booth by NASA to let tradeshow attendees know that space is still out there. We took a quick look at the booth and learned about how NASA is planning on protecting us all from asteroids.

We’ll have more on the chipsat program soon, but the basic plan is to launch hundreds of these tiny satellites into orbit and use them to better track, monitor, and gauge the size of potentially dangerous asteroids. NASA has their sights set on any object 30 meters or larger, though asteroids even smaller than that can still be dangerous as the world saw when a 17-20 meter asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia.

If you want a better look at that 3D-printed asteroid, here’s a quick video with the NASA rep explaining how chipsats will more accurately map the electromagnetic field of these objects than has ever been done before. (check out video here: on instragram)



NASA Wants You to Help Fight Asteroids

NASA is calling for coders to help develop algorithms to detect, track, identify and mitigate the effects of asteroids. The administration is offering $35,000 in awards for the service, as well as the opportunity to possibly help save us all from extinction via asteroid. Sounds like a pretty good gig to us.

The government agency explains what they need in a weirdly cheery video, in which a voice-over reminds us of that pesky asteroid that came out of nowhere and exploded over Russia last year and says coders should care about asteroid hunting because “the dinosaurs would have cared if they knew about this problem.”

NASA joins Planetary Resources Inc. to run the Asteroid Grand Challenge Series, which is set to start on March 17 and last through August. Each competition is designed to help NASA scientists analyze the massive amounts of data gathered by asteroid missions. Those interested can compete in 10 TopCoder contests over six months, in categories like bug hunting and content creation.

Meteorite explodes over Russia. AP/

Specifically, NASA is looking for“significantly improved algorithms to identify asteroids in images captured by ground-based telescopes.” NASA explains that “the winning solution must increase the detection sensitivity, minimize the number of false positives, ignore imperfections in the data, and run effectively on all computer systems.”

NASA’s Jason Kessler explained during a panel at SXSW that the goal is to find the 2 percent of asteroids NASA has yet to discover. The Guardian reports:

Nasa’s Grand Challenge, announced in 2013 as the latest way to search for potentially hazardous asteroids, capitalizing on the agency’s previous efforts to find the 1km and upwards sized asteroids. “We found most of those. The problem is there are about a million out there that go down to about the size of 30 metres,” said Kessler. “The likelihood of something hitting us in the future is pretty guaranteed, although we’re not freaking out that there is an imminent threat.”

How comforting.

NASA finds big payoffs in crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is an important trend, and it’s not just for pooling together knowledge on a wiki page. In fact, it’s proving extremely valuable for researchers.

At NASA, for example, we are working to more effectively harness the expertise, ingenuity, and creativity of individual members of the public by enabling, accelerating, and scaling the use of open innovation approaches including prizes, challenges, and crowdsourcing.

NASA recognizes that these methods present an extraordinary opportunity to inspire the development of transformative solutions by offering a means to engage with non-traditional sources of innovative ideas, all in a remarkably cost-effective way.

We are an agency founded on solving tough problems, and we believe in the power of open innovation to help address those problems in partnership with innovators from around the country and the globe.

To do this, we are creating opportunities regularly for broad engagement through our prizes, challenges, and crowdsourcing activities.

NASA’s challenges conducted during 2013 illustrate the many benefits of this approach and unique outcomes they create:

  • Some challenges allowed us to seek solutions and stimulate innovation from non-traditional sources.  In addition to individuals participating in online crowdsourcing activities, we saw very small teams, including father-son, husband-wife, and friends, which were attracted to the unique opportunity of competing in a Centennial Challenge. For example, a level one prize winning team from 2013’s Sample Return Robot Challenge — Team Survey — was comprised of friends from Robot Wars that now work at the same company.
  • Some challenges helped us fill the gaps in our understanding of the current technology landscape in priority research areas. For example, through the Non-Invasive Measurement of Intra-Cranial Pressure Challenge, NASA sought ideas for measurement technologies that could help us understand better why some astronauts who have been on long-duration missions (six months in microgravity) experience changes in visual acuity and in eye anatomy. NASA suspects that these changes in the eye are related to increased intracranial pressure and sought approaches to monitor this pressure non-invasively over time. As a result of this challenge, NASA identified four new potential solutions in the current marketplace and discovered three high-interest solutions and an additional five leads on developing technology that we will continue to follow.
  • Some challenges helped us to understand how complicated engineering problems could successfully capitalize on crowdsourcing techniques — even contributing to the creation of an interplanetary Internet! NASA is developing a suite of network protocols that can withstand the time delays due to the immense distances between planets and the disruptions and non-contiguous paths of the space communications links.  Through the Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) challenges currently being conducted with the NASA Tournament Lab, we are demonstrating that the security, performance, and application of these network protocols can be improved through crowdsourcing.
  • Other challenges demonstrated to us the unique nimbleness and flexibility of this tool. One research paper (PDF) that studied a set of challenges conducted on the NASA Tournament Lab found that “NASA program managers have cited certain benefits that are unique to procuring technology through challenge-driven methods. Managers often ran a number of challenges in a series, which allowed them to learn from earlier challenges and redefine requirements for subsequent challenges if desired. Managers described this process as being ‘more nimble and flexible’ than traditional procurement methods.”

In an increasingly connected and networked world, NASA recognizes the value of the public as a strategic partner in addressing some of our most pressing challenges.

We welcome and embrace the crowdsourcing trend, which enables more people to be actively involved in their space program.

For more information on NASA’s use of prizes, challenges and crowdsourcing see:

Jenn Gustetic is Prizes and Challenges Program Executive in the Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA. She will be speaking on NASA’s crowdsourcing programs at the upcoming Crowdsourcing Week Global conference in Singapore.