NASA Crowns Space Apps Challenge Winners

Interplanetary weather app that integrates weather data from Mars and Earth is among the winners of the competition.
10 Space Technologies That Help On Earth
10 Space Technologies That Help On Earth
(click image for slideshow)
NASA has announced five winners of its second International Space Apps Challenge, a competition that aims to solve challenges on Earth and in space through software, hardware, data visualization and mobile apps. During the event, 770 apps were submitted and 133 were nominated for judging.

The Space Apps Challenge took place on April 20 and 21, with more than 9,000 participants from around the world. NASA and its 150 partners -- including the European Space Agency, TechShop and the National Science Foundation -- created 50 challenges for teams that came together during the competition to develop relevant apps for space exploration missions.

The big winner of the "best mission concept" was a team from Athens, Greece, which created Popeye on Mars, a model for a deployable, reusable spinach greenhouse for Mars. The air garden would be able to operate without human intervention for 45 days, or the lifecycle of spinach. The system includes all the needed resources, sensors and electronics for spinach to thrive in the extreme conditions of the Red Planet's surface. The team also proposed systems for harvesting both the plants and the oxygen they produce.

[ Want to know more about the competition? Read NASA Launches Next Space Apps Challenge. ]

The "most inspiring" award went to T-10, a prototype mobile app for use on the International Space Station (ISS), created by a team from London. The app lets astronauts identify points of interest they wish to photograph, and alerts them 10 minutes before the ISS is set to fly over that location. Prior to sending alerts, T-10 checks real-time weather data and doesn't disturb users if the visibility is bad. The app also allows astronauts to upload their photos to Twitter, and can notify T-10 users on Earth when the ISS is about to fly overhead.

Sol, an interplanetary weather app, won for the "best use of data." Developed by a U.S.-based team from Kansas City, Mo., the app for tablets and smartphones integrates weather data from the Curiosity rover on Mars with weather data on Earth. The team wanted to get mobile users interested in science by appealing to them with a sleek design. It also developed a second companion app to augment the Sol experience, allowing users to control a 3-D version of Curiosity or spin a 3-D version of Mars to get facts about the planet.

ISS Base Station, headed by a group from Philadelphia, is a project that consists of hardware and software. The software component is a Web app that tracks the position of the ISS on a world map and connects to an augmented-reality iOS app, which lets users find the ISS in the sky. The hardware is a mechanical arm that receives data from the app and points to the location of the ISS in the sky when it comes overhead. ISS Base Station was the winner in the "best use of hardware" category.

In an effort to make "galactic impact," a team from Gothenburg, Sweden, collaborated on a project called Greener Cities. The team's design is meant to compliment NASA's satellite climate data with crowdsourced micro-climate data in order to monitor the environment. Users can "plant" a Greener Cities sensor into their box gardens -- a common gardening method for apartment dwellers -- and receive information about the state of their garden. The data reported from individual gardens can be aggregated and used by city officials to monitor air quality.

The Space Apps Challenge first launched in 2012. During that event, 2,000 developers, designers and scientists from 17 countries participated.

Editor's Choice
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer
Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data