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Space Apps Challenge: The Hackathon Is On

Calling all space geeks: The hackathon is on.

Bring your dreams, your drink (the caffeinated kind, of course) and your skills to any one of 75 locations in 41 countries around this world – or the whole Blue Marble if you choose to join virtually – to the second annual International Space Apps Challenge, April 20-21.

For 48 hours, some of the most active minds on the planet will come together to crowdsource fun and maybe even life-sustaining solutions to some of the most complex space exploration problems: 

  • Gotta eat: Develop a deployable greenhouse that could be used for an M&M mission (Moon or Mars).
  • Bootstrap space: Develop the game Moonvilleto and virtually build a self-sustaining lunar industry.
  • Seven minutes of sheer science: Conceive of how to make use of 150 kilograms of ejectable mass that also achieves a scientific or technical objective during the entry and landing phase of a Mars mission.
  • Diggin’ dirt: Using soil testing approaches, develop “a simple means for users to feedback their soil measurements using web/phone technology.”
  • Duck, duck, goose: Create a poultry management system for backyard farmers. Hey – whether you’re on the Moon, Mars, or Macedonia (yes, that’s one of the locations this year), you gotta what? Eat.
  • Meteor, meteor, duck: Create an app to use during meteor showers that allows observers to trace the location, color and size of the shooting stars.

Those are just some of the more than 50 space challenges posed for the 2013 event, and the invitation is open to all to bring their own.

Organized by NASA, with support from the space agencies of Europe, Canada and others, the idea behind the challenge is to create teams with an eye on human exploration that can “do something better than any of us can do on our own.”

The only special emphasis is on projects that focus on explaining why; why do humans explore, why explore asteroids, why the Moon, why space?

Although outer space is the chief challenge, the projects will also encompass the corner of the universe that is Earth – climate change, water resources, mapping and so on.

Cities across the globe will play  host to physical gatherings of hackathoners, from Abu Dhabi to Paris, with the chief host location in Philadelphia. Canadian sites include the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, which planned to start the challenge a week early, with a pre-event gathering that was held at the Yuri’s Night World Space Party at the Hotel Ocho.

(Yuri’s Night is when space geeks get their party on, on April 12th,  to honor Yuri Gagarin and his historic flight into space.)

For a comprehensive explanation of how it will work, where to go, and how to register, go the space apps challenge website. Note: you’ll have to be a registered participant to submit a project for judging.

Check it out. Take the challenge. May all the space apps win.

AJ Plunkett is a freelance writer in Virginia with experience in covering defense and aerospace industries, as well as health care issues.

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