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NASA Launches Next Space Apps Challenge

International competition brings together developers from around the world to create software, hardware and visualization tools for space exploration missions.

10 Space Technologies That Help On Earth
10 Space Technologies That Help On Earth
(click image for slideshow)
NASA is launching its second International Space Apps Challenge, a technology development event that aims to solve challenges on earth and in space through software, hardware, data visualization and mobile apps.

At this year's competition, taking place on April 20 and 21, developers around the world will be presented with 50 challenges created by NASA and its 150 partners, including the European Space Agency, TechShop, and the National Science Foundation. More than 40 countries will be hosting the 48-hour event, pooling participants globally. NASA is leading the collaboration along with local governments and organizations.

The goal of the event is to bring individuals into teams that will then work together to develop relevant apps for space exploration missions. One of those challenges is "Hitch a Ride to Mars," which asks teams to design a CubeSat, a small research satellite that produces its own power and transmits signals, for an upcoming Mars mission. A CubeSat hasn't been used in Mars exploration yet, and the new design must operate in the planet's environment, according to NASA.

[ Space agency plans to invest in asteroid-mining technology. Read NASA Launches Asteroid Research Mission. ]

"Curiosity at Home" is another challenge centered on the Red Planet; it aims to create a connection between people and the Mars rover Curiosity. NASA is calling on developers to use software, visualization tools or an app-controlled "home rover" to update earthlings on Curiosity's activities.

Teams will also create an open hardware design for the European Space Agency (ESA) that can be generated by a 3D printer, address the impacts of atmospheric changes on urban areas, and develop an app that compares earth landscapes with the surfaces of other planets.

In 2012, 2,000 developers, designers and scientists from 17 countries participated in the Space Apps Challenge. "More than 100 unique solutions were developed in less than 48 hours during the event. All solutions were developed in a completely open-source environment, and each have their own unique potential to go even further to address world and space technology challenges," NASA Open Innovation Program manager Nick Skytland said in a blog post summarizing last year's event.

Examples of products created in 2012 include an app called Predict the Sky -- which combines data from the International Space Station (ISS), the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and weather forecasts to give users a better understanding of what they'll see in the night sky -- and Planet Hopper, an app visualizing Kepler mission data that teachers can use to teach students about extrasolar planets. Additionally, last year's challenge resulted in a preliminary design for a NASA Open Data API, and an open hardware design that visualizes the location of the ISS.

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