NASA has collected a virtual empire of knowledge during the last few decades and now the agency wants to use this knowledge, along with people’s smartphones, to help identify and solve global problems.
The aerospace agency is kicking off the new International Space Apps Competition by asking scientists, engineers, and everyday people to develop apps for smartphones, computers and websites and use scientific data to study things like weather-related hazards, discovery of ocean-related hazards and other pressing issues.
Other problems that could be tackled, the agency suggests in its announcement, include harnessing weather satellite data to study the impact of storms on the global economy and studying the depletion of ocean resources.
NASA will have more information on the new project in the coming weeks, but the new project kicks off in 2012 and is open to everyone in the world.
The project will begin with a two-day event (which will later be announced) that showcases the best concepts submitted for the challenge.
Agency engineers say since today’s computers and mobile phones perform better than anything during the Apollo-era, which took man to the moon, then why not use today’s technology along with human ingenuity to create practical applications that benefit humanity?
NASA says since Apollo landed on the moon, "advances in technology have made images clearer, the information coming back from space richer, and the world smaller."
“Today, many of us carry smartphones that have 512 megabytes of active memory, 32 gigabytes of storage, weigh less than 200 grams, and can form a real-time connection instantly to anywhere in the world,” NASA engineers said in a statement.
"The International Space Apps Challenge is aimed at creating new opportunities for governments to engage citizens in this exploration mission by leveraging their expertise and entrepreneurial spirit to help address challenges of global importance."
This new project is very similar to the SETI home project, which computers around the planet are still helping "NASA find E.T." with signals from the outer reaches of the galaxy.
It may be hard for some to comprehend, but more than five million people around the world have signed up to look for aliens. Astronomers are still enlisting the Internet masses for the task of deciding what Earth should tell them (aliens).
The "Earth Speaks" project was organized by Douglas Vakoch, the SETI Institute's director of interstellar message composition, to come up with suggestions for messages that could be transmitted to extraterrestrial civilizations.
People from around the world are still submitting pictures, sounds, and text messages that they would want to send to other worlds. NASA says the project aims to foster a dialogue about what we should say to extraterrestrial intelligence, as well as whether or not we should even be sending intentional messages.
Those that want to participate in the new International Space Apps Challenge can use publicly released scientific data to do so, NASA said.
NASA currently is working on the timing and other details for the competition. For now, users can take advantage of the agency’s Earth Observatory or Interactive Global Geostationary Weather Satellite Images.
Already, new plans are being posted to website. One user suggested using satellite-imaging to study growth patterns around cities and use the information to plan infrastructure.
The competition also compliments the government's new mandate for NASA, which ended its space shuttle program earlier this year. NASA must continue to pursue space exploration activities, so now it is turning its attention to solving problems on earth.
Updates about the new challenge will be posted on NASA's website as they become available. Ideas are welcome now. Visit: http://open.nasa.gov/appschallenge/