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April 16, 2013

NASA Seeks New Apps with Second International Space Apps Challenge

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

When it comes to technology, one of the best places to look is NASA. After all, these are the people who were going into space back when the hula hoop was a big deal. But NASA can't do the job alone, and so has put out the word as part of its second International Space Apps Challenge to draw some of the best app designers together to create apps to tackle the challenges of both Earth and beyond.

The International Space Apps Challenge is set to run April 20-21, and will pit a series of designers against each other with a focus toward solving 50 different challenges created by a variety of space and space-related agencies. NASA, of course, had a big hand in developing the challenges, but also called in some help from the European Space Agency, the National Science Foundation, and TechShop to design the challenges.

But with over 40 countries getting in on the action, those challenges may not last long.

Some of the challenges have already slipped out, including “Hitch a Ride to Mars,” in which teams are set to work designing what's known as a CubeSat for an upcoming mission to Mars. While CubeSats haven't been used in Mars missions yet, their potential is substantial thanks to a CubeSat's design, which requires that it produce its own power and transmit signals.

A second challenge, dubbed “Curiosity at Home,” requires users to focus on the Curiosity rover, building software tools that could connect users on Earth with Curiosity's activity on Mars.

Several other challenges are also in the works, incorporating things like 3D printing, the impacts of atmospheric disturbances for urban areas, a means to compare Earth's geography to that of other planets, and more.

At the last such challenge, designers rolled out programs such as the Predict the Sky app, which took information from the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station (ISS), and local weather forecasts to give users a better idea of what was going on directly overhead. Also emerging from the event was Planet Hopper, which used data from the Kepler mission to help teachers talk about extrasolar planets, and the NASA Open Data API, which focused on the ISS.

With one such event already down, and having produced some pretty impressive apps, it's a safe bet that this newest event will produce likewise amounts of high-quality apps. The space program has previously been seen augmenting several industries, so seeing NASA put out the call for fresh apps should be the kind of thing to make app enthusiasts very excited.

Edited by Braden Becker

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