NASA’s annual International Space Apps Challenge this weekend will be held in over 100 locations. This year’s challenge goes on April 12 and 13. Coordinated from New York City, New York, the event will include 40 different challenges organized into five themes: Earth Watch, Technology in Space, Human Space flight, Robotics and Asteroids. Astronaut Colonel Douglas H. “Wheels” Wheelock will be monitoring some of the events.
Challenge participants will attempt to create space apps that will contribute to both space exploration and improving life here on Earth. They will be working on anything from educational space apps to designs for space travel equipment. Some specifics about this year’s challenges were recently revealed online and include: creating a game to travel across the solar system moving from asteroid to asteroid, designing a concept for “a deployable greenhouse” for use on a mission to Mars and building a space app that shows the positions of missions presently in space.
The Space Apps Challenge reportedly arose out of a conversation about what it really “means to innovate.” Software engineer, community organizer for StartupBus and co-organizer of Space Apps NYC, Mike Caprio, told sites such as Space.com that he “was connected to . . . NASA organizers by one of the early members of Safecast, Aaron Huslage. I then co-organized the first year of the event in New York City, and our StartupBus members joined in . . .”
Caprio continues: “We had set up the Space Apps NYC site in a matter of weeks, and we had only 40 attendees – but those few passionate folks made incredible progress in just 48 hours, building systems that could access and display exoplanet data from Kepler, send text messages to alert people when the ISS was above them and inform remote rural farmers hundreds of miles out in jungles about crop prices, weather patterns, and planting conditions. A single person . . .put forth an amazing effort to create a standard font library of weather related symbols for meteorologists where before they were forced to rely on hand drawn scribbles on paper maps.”
Caprio says: “(W)e were just one locally organized site; in 2012 there were over 20 Space Apps locations all doing . . . excellent work. In 2013, the number of locations rocketed to about 80 and this year there are roughly 100 sites participating worldwide. This is a truly historic event: thousands of people all across the world, under the guidance of one of the most technologically elite organizations on the planet, working together to improve life for everyone on Earth and in space.”
Prizes will be awarded. NASA, however, hopes to focus less on individual winnings and more on a spirit of teamwork. Although NASA is heading up this event, it’s truly an international mass collaboration occurring over a 48-hour period in cities across the globe involving several governmental partners and more than 100 local groups. Caprio and the organizational team concluded that the Space Apps Challenge will exemplify “the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration by utilizing openly available data, supplied through NASA missions and technology, and the talent and skill of passionate volunteers” in order to further advance space exploration and further “improve the quality of life on Earth.”
(Image courtesy of Space Apps Challenge)