NASA Announces International Space Apps Challenge Winners
May 23, 2013

NASA Announces International Space Apps Challenge Winners

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

As more attention turns towards the matter of space exploration, all the nuanced issues of getting to space, spending time there, collecting data and returning safely are rising to the surface. NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and others believe space exploration should be a global event, and participation from every nation and every community is important. It is with this spirit that these agencies and other “government collaborators” held the International Space Apps Challenge, a 48-hour collaboration event where groups from all over the world pitch their ideas for bettering life on Earth and making the most of space exploration. The competition has now concluded and NASA has announced the winners in categories like Best Use of Data, Best Mission Concept, and Most Inspiring.

Sol hails itself as the world´s first “interplanetary weather application” and is the winner in the Best Use of Data category. With this app, users are able to check the weather on other planets, just as they´re able to check the current conditions here on Earth. The app makers won Best Use of Data by using the Mars Atmospheric Aggregation System (MAAS) API to determine the current conditions on the Red Planet, though other app makers also used the same APIs in their creations.

A team from Athens, Greece won the Best Mission Concept category with a somewhat unusual idea: Growing spinach on Mars.

Aptly titled “Popeye on Mars,” this group developed a reusable air garden with which to grow leafy, green spinach. The system carries the necessary oxygen, sensors and other resources to grow the vegetable over a span of 45 days. Once the spinach is grown, harvesting systems kick in to deliver the spinach to hungry Martian visitors. This veggie rig also has the necessary components to protect the spinach from the harsh Martian weather.

An app called Greener Cities took away the award in the Galactic Impact category. The group from Gothenburg, Sweden developed the app, which complements NASA satellite weather data by pairing it with cored-sourced data from gardens all over the world. This system is designed to not only provide high-resolution data about the environment from hundreds of thousands of points in the world, but also to encourage children to get interested in the environment and computer programming.

Finally, an app called T-10 won the award for Most Inspiring by creating a connection between high-flying astronauts and those sky-looking fans planted on Terra Firma.

This app works in two ways. First, it acts as a timer to remind busy astronauts in the International Space Station (ISS) to snap a picture of different landmarks on Earth. Secondly, it alerts those on Earth when the ISS is flying overhead so they can give the spacecraft a wave as it passes.

“The idea is simple. We love photos from space, and astronauts love taking them, but their time on the International Space Station is so precious that they don´t really have time to keep staring out of the window until the clouds clear over destinations they fly over in a matter of moments,” reads a description by the app makers on

Astronauts can tell the app which part of the world they´d like to snap, then the app checks the weather forecast to avoid clouds and sounds a ten minute alarm before the ISS flies overhead. Those on Earth can use the app to let the astronauts know they´ll be waving when they pass overhead, making the time spent in the ISS a little less lonely. This app should be available soon for both Android and iOS users.