Feeds

NASA to programmers: Save the Earth and fatten your wallet

Experts team up with space miners to sponsor asteroid finding algorithm contest

The essential guide to IT transformation

NASA is teaming up with the asteroid-mining wannabes at Planetary Resources to offer $35,000 in prizes in a contest to develop algorithms to detect Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) – asteroids – with the goal of spotting those that might threaten the Earth.

Actually, saving our planet from destruction is but one goal of the Asteroid Data Hunter challenge. The other – and the reason that the asteroid-mining company Planetary Resources of Bellevue, Washington, is putting up the cash for the prizes – is profit.

"Asteroids pose both a possible threat and an opportunity for Earth: they could impact us, causing damage, OR possibly be mined for resources that could help extend our ability to explore the universe," the kickoff announcement of the Asteroid Data Hunter challenge states.

"Current asteroid detection initiatives are only tracking one percent of the estimated objects that orbit the Sun," Planetary Research president Chris Lewicki said when announcing the competition. "We are excited to partner with NASA in this contest to help increase the quantity and knowledge about asteroids that are potential threats, human destinations, or resource rich."

More power to the asteroid miners, say we. Should their desire to exploit the minerals to be found on NEOs save Earth from another Chelyabinsk or worse, God bless 'em. As NASA notes in a video describing their crowd-sourced Asteroid Grand Challenge NEO-detection efforts, "dinosaurs didn't have a space program" – and look what happened to them.

NASA Tournament Lab's Asteroid Grand Challenge

The multi-phase Asteroid Data Hunter challenge will kick off next Monday and if all goes as planned will wrap up this August. Participants are asked to develop "significantly improved algorithms" that can identify asteroids in NASA-provided images captured by a wealth of ground-based telescopes.

Being named top algorithmic asteroid hunter won't be a walk in the park. As NASA explains when outlining the challenge, "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."

The contest – aimed at "citizen scientists" and managed by NASA's Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) through the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) – is divided into two phases of five segments each. Eight of the segments have awards, with first and second-place prizes that range from a $1,400 first prize for, as one example, the Phase 1 - Algorithm Productization challenge, to $250 for second place in the Phase 2 - Invitational Dataset Testing competition.

In addition, said citizen scientists who have Reliability Ratings on Topcoder, the platform being used to run the competition, are also eligible for Reliability Bonuses of up to $280 should they win first place in one of the segments.

That may not sound like much, but all rewards are not monetary in this world, eh? Winning first place in the Algorithm Productization challenge: $1,400. Receiving that challenge's Reliability Bonus: $280. Saving the Earth from a civilization-crippling asteroid impact: priceless. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
Time to move away from Windows 7 ... whoa, whoa, who said anything about Windows 8?
Start migrating now to avoid another XPocalypse – Gartner
You'll find Yoda at the back of every IT conference
The piss always taking is he. Bastard the.
HANA has SAP cuddling up to 'smaller partners'
Wanted: algorithm wranglers, not systems giants
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.