NASA introduces new program that encourages citizens to track asteroids

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NASA introduces new program that encourages citizens to track asteroids

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Photo courtesy of Google Images

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently announced The Asteroid Data Hunter Challenge, which will run through August 22.  The Asteroid Data Hunter Challenge will allow citizens to participate in tracking asteroids that can harm Earth.  NASA is looking for new ways to collect ideas for how to track, deflect and capture asteroids, including turning to citizens.

Citizens will be required to improve algorithms that spot asteroids in images taken by Earth-bound telescopes.  The algorithms must improve detection sensitivity, minimize false positives, ignore data errors and be compatible with any computer.  Teams that succeed will receive a $35,000 award.

“Protecting the planet from the threat of asteroid impact means first knowing where they are,” said Prizes and Challenges Program executive Gustetic said in a release.  “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.”

Grand Challenges Program executives, Gustetic and Jason Kessler hosted a panel March 10 at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas titled “Are We Smarter than the Dinosaurs?”. There they discussed how open innovation can help get people involved on and research into space exploration.  As well as ideas for mitigating these threats.

NASA announced last year that it plans to track all asteroids that pass near the Earth.  However, at the time, it was only able to spot 95 percent of asteroids that measure larger than 3,280 feet across and one percent of asteroids smaller than 328 feet.

“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,” said Gustetic.

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