NASA Offers $35,000 to Citizen Asteroid Hunters [VIDEO]


NASA has teamed up with Planetary Resources Inc. and offers $35,000 to citizen asteroid hunters who can develop enhanced algorithms that can be used to identify asteroids. The series of contests named Asteroid Data Hunter kicks off its first contest on March 17 and ends its challenge in August 2014. The contest series is managed by the agency’s Tournament Lab and aims at finding all potentially dangerous rocks. In the video posted on YouTube, the agency reminds people of last year’s incident in Russia, when an unforeseen meteor shower terrified the whole world and urges them to figure out how to prevent such calamities.

NASA has decided to offer $35,000 to citizen asteroid hunters in an attempt to improve existent algorithms which can be used to identify asteroids and involve the population in a joint effort to save the Earth from such disasters. Jason Crusan, the agency’s Tournament Lab director stated in a press release that NASA spent the last three years on “learning and advancing the ability to leverage distributed algorithm and coding skills” with the help of Tournament Lab in order to solve difficult problems. However, the agency is now asking people’s help to protect the planet from asteroids by means of image analysis.

The Winning Solution

The series of contests named Asteroid Data Hunter challenges participants to create significantly enhanced algorithms to identify asteroids in images, but the rule is that they must be captured by ground-based telescopes. Moreover, the winning solution must  minimize the number of false positives, increase the detection sensitivity, run effectively on all computer systems and ignore imperfections in the data.

NASA hands over the mission of solving the global challenge of identifying asteroids to citizen asteroid hunters, who are also offered $35,000.

Jenn Gustetic, executive of Prizes and Challenges program stated that before protecting the planet from a possible asteroid impact, one must find out where the threats are. At the same time, Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer of Planetary Resources Inc., the asteroid mining company mentioned that adding coding skills and improved algorithms to NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey data will bring new insight “into the state of the art in detecting asteroids.”

Current asteroid detection initiatives are only tracking one percent of the estimated objects that orbit the Sun,” Lewicki said.

With the help of the series of contests that last until August 2014, NASA hopes to increase its work in both the identification and characterization of near-Earth objects. The first contest called the Asteroid Grand Challenge aims at expanding the agency’s efforts and encouraging collaboration and partnerships with different organizations.

Prior to March 17, people who are interested in the contest can create an account on the official website of the series of contests and run through the rules and distinct phases. NASA’s ambitious project allows citizen scientists to take part in the global concern with regard to asteroids and welcomes the possibility of finding new ways to shield the planet from meteor showers like the one which occurred on February 15 2013 in Russia. In order to motivate citizen asteroid hunters to be part of its endeavor, NASA offers $35,000.

By Gabriela Motroc




Space Daily

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