NASA offers cash contest in hunt for asteroids

From NASA Reports
As part of its Asteroid Grand Challenge, NASA is calling upon citizen scientists to help locate asteroids. Artist's image.
As part of its Asteroid Grand Challenge, NASA is calling upon citizen scientists to help locate asteroids. Artist's image.

    He  painted the Milky Way on his bathroom ceiling in glow-in-the-dark paint and never misses an episode of The Big Bang Theory. She fiddles with algorithms on Friday evenings and enjoys discussing exoplanets and dwarf stars. They are the family space geeks, and their ship has just come in.

    NASA has announced Asteroid Data Hunter contests that will offer $35,000 in awards during the next six months to citizen scientists who develop improved algorithms that can be used to identify asteroids.
    The first contest will kick off on March 17. The series runs through August. Managed by the NASA Tournament Lab, these contests are part of the agency's Asteroid Grand Challenge, an effort to employ government, industry, academic collaborators and even citizen scientists to find asteroid threats and figure out what to do about them.    
    “For the past three years, NASA has been learning and advancing the ability to leverage distributed algorithm and coding skills through the NASA Tournament Lab to solve tough problems," said Jason Crusan, NASA Tournament Lab director. "We are now applying our experience with algorithm contests to helping protect the planet from asteroid threats through image analysis."
     The Asteroid Data Hunter contests challenge participants to develop improved algorithms to identify asteroids in images captured by ground-based telescopes. 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.
     “Protecting the planet from the threat of asteroid impact means first knowing where they are,” said Jenn Gustetic, NASA's prizes and challenges program executive. “By opening up the search for asteroids, we are harnessing the potential of innovators and makers and citizen scientists everywhere to help solve this global challenge.” 
     Through NASA's asteroid initiative, the agency seeks to enhance its ongoing work in the identification and characterization of near-Earth objects for further scientific investigation. This work includes locating potentially hazardous asteroids and identifying those viable for redirection to a stable lunar orbit for future exploration by astronauts.
     The algorithm contests are managed and executed by NASA's Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation. The contests are being conducted in partnership with Planetary Resources Inc. of Bellevue, Wash. 
     Competitors can create an account on the contest series website and learn more about the rules and different phases of the contest.

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