NASA is calling for coders to help develop algorithms to detect, track, identify and mitigate the effects of asteroids. The administration is offering $35,000 in awards for the service, as well as the opportunity to possibly help save us all from extinction via asteroid. Sounds like a pretty good gig to us.
The government agency explains what they need in a weirdly cheery video, in which a voice-over reminds us of that pesky asteroid that came out of nowhere and exploded over Russia last year and says coders should care about asteroid hunting because "the dinosaurs would have cared if they knew about this problem."
NASA joins Planetary Resources Inc. to run the Asteroid Grand Challenge Series, which is set to start on March 17 and last through August. Each competition is designed to help NASA scientists analyze the massive amounts of data gathered by asteroid missions. Those interested can compete in 10 TopCoder contests over six months, in categories like bug hunting and content creation.
Specifically, NASA is looking for "significantly improved algorithms to identify asteroids in images captured by ground-based telescopes." NASA explains that "the winning solution must increase the detection sensitivity, minimize the number of false positives, ignore imperfections in the data, and run effectively on all computer systems."
NASA's Jason Kessler explained during a panel at SXSW that the goal is to find the 2 percent of asteroids NASA has yet to discover. The Guardian reports:
Nasa’s Grand Challenge, announced in 2013 as the latest way to search for potentially hazardous asteroids, capitalizing on the agency’s previous efforts to find the 1km and upwards sized asteroids. “We found most of those. The problem is there are about a million out there that go down to about the size of 30 metres,” said Kessler. “The likelihood of something hitting us in the future is pretty guaranteed, although we’re not freaking out that there is an imminent threat.”