Asteroid Detection Crowdsourcing Initiative
November 22, 2013

NASA Hopes To Enhance Asteroid Detection Through Crowdsourcing Partnership

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A new agreement between NASA and a Washington-based asteroid mining firm will give computer programmers a chance to use the US space agency’s data to help locate near-Earth objects.

The crowd-sourced software solutions initiative is the first signed under NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge, a large scale effort to take advantage of multidisciplinary partnerships with government agencies, private sector firms, universities and citizen scientists around the world. The program was first announced back in June.

“Under a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement, Planetary Resources will facilitate the use of NASA-funded sky survey data and help support the algorithm competition and review results,” the agency explained in a statement. “NASA will develop and manage the contests and explore use of the best solutions for enhancing existing survey programs. The first contest is expected to launch early in 2014.”

“This partnership uses NASA resources in innovative ways and takes advantage of public expertise to improve identification of potential threats to our planet,” added Lindley Johnson, program executive of NASA's near Earth object observation program. “This opportunity is one of many efforts we're undertaking as part of our asteroid initiative.”

As part of NASA’s asteroid initiative, the US space agency said that it is trying to strengthen its ability to identify and characterize near-Earth objects for investigation purposes. They are also working to detect asteroids that could present a potential danger to our planet, as well as to find space rocks large enough to be relocated into a stable orbit near the moon in order for astronauts to travel there for exploration.

“The foundation of the asteroid grand challenge is partnerships like this one. It fits the core purpose of the grand challenge perfectly: find innovative ways to combine ideas and resources to solve the problem of dealing with potentially hazardous asteroids,” said Jason Kessler, program executive for the asteroid grand challenge.

“Asteroids hold the resources necessary to enable a sustainable, even indefinite presence in space – for science, commerce and continued prosperity here on Earth,” added Planetary Resources president and chief engineer Chris Lewicki. “By harnessing the public's interest in space and asteroid detection, we can more quickly identify the potential threats, as well as the opportunities.”

The first contest will be based on Planetary Resources' and Zooniverse's Asteroid Zoo platform, which is currently still in development. It and future entries will be managed and executed by NASA's Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI), a division established by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to promote the space agency’s innovation efforts.