NASA International Space Apps Challenge

NASA International Space Apps Challenge

As we celebrate 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, many of us have watched that classic footage with a mixture of admiration and envy, wishing we could be part of something as life-changing and momentous as the Apollo missions. We’d all love to join the great thinkers and innovators behind the space programme as they set their sights on returning to the moon and going on to Mars. And the good news is, with the NASA International Space Apps Challenge you can do just that.

What is the Space Apps Challenge?

The challenge is a huge, multi-national hackathon that brings together coders and scientists, makers and builders, thinkers and dreamers from across the globe to tackle a series of problems set by NASA. It is managed by the Earth Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. Last year’s event had 17,924 participants in over 200 locations in 75 countries worldwide, as well as 876 virtual participants who logged on from all corners of the world. Together they took on 21 different challenges, coming up with 1,395 submitted solutions.

The Space Apps Challenge 2018 was a truly global event, with 1198 people taking part in Cairo, 914 in Hyderabad and 625 in the ancient seat of knowledge, Alexandria. The challenge stretched from 344 people in New York to 357 people in Sydney, and included 15 US Embassies and 11 national space agencies.

A team in Pristina, Kosovo, tackle the NASA Space Apps Challenge

How does the Space Apps Challenge work?

There are plenty of space apps around already, from tracking the ISS orbits across the sky to playing poker on a fictional space station. This challenge encourages participants to experience, experiment and explore new apps and ideas that could deliver answers to some of the biggest problems facing mankind, both here on Earth and up in space. Last year’s categories included challenges to ‘help others discover earth’, as well as sections titled ‘can you build a…’ and ‘what the world needs now is…’ plus challenges relating to the Arctic/Antarctic and the beauty and wonder of the universe.

Unprecedented access to NASA data

NASA has a vast database of information collected during its 50+ years of space exploration, and all participants in the Space Apps Challenge have unprecedented access to this data to help solve the challenges. It is a wonderful way for NASA to make the most of the masses of data it has accumulated, with some of the world’s finest minds gathering together to put the facts and figures to the best possible use. The data is free and open for use and made available for all participants, wherever they are in the world.

What do the participants get out of it?

The Space Apps Challenge is the pursuit of knowledge and innovation for their own sake – to better mankind, solve earth bound problems and enhance our endeavours in space. It’s a chance to stretch your mind, learn about the universe, and perhaps even learn a little about yourself. There are awards for the best use of data, best use of hardware and best mission concept, along with a galactic impact award that is granted to the solution with the greatest potential to improve life on Earth or out in the universe.

When and where will this year’s events be held?

If you’ve been inspired by Armstrong’s one small step and want to play your part in the next giant leap for mankind, the Space Apps Challenge is well worth checking out.

The eighth annual Challenge will take place over the weekend of 18th to the 20th October 2019, although many teams hold pre-event meet-ups so that participants get the chance to get to know each other in advance and can hit the ground running when the time comes. As for where this year’s events will be, the short answer is everywhere. Just like previous years there will be events held right across the world, so there is bound to be one near you. You can search the Space Apps Challenge website to see if there is an event in your area. If not, you can also participate remotely from your own desk as a member of the virtual challenge team.

NASA International Space Apps Challenge
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