NASA contest yields Space Apps for Earth, too

NASA has opened the voting for its International Space Apps Challenge, an effort to provide a platform to let developers find innovative solutions to problems both in space and on Earth.

The contest drew more than two dozen apps from teams on six continents around the world, some of them working from multiple locations. On the contest site, each team submitted a video explaining its application.

The submissions range from health care-related apps and an app that uses an iPhone to locate stars on a cloudy night, to several farming apps and a telerobotic submarine — build mostly with off-the-shelf parts — that would let anyone explore underwater. 

There also are entries such as Vicar2png, which lets anyone view and work with images from NASA’s Planetary Image Atlas, whose VICAR format is otherwise unreadable by open-source tools. And an Australian team submitted and app that uses “people as sensors” in an early-warning system by monitoring social media for word of disasters and quickly putting emergency warnings on a map.

NASA, along with Innovation Endeavors and Talenthouse, are asking people to check out the apps and vote for their favorites. Those votes and a jury from Innovation Endeavors will determine the winners. Voting closes May 15.

Apps contests are becoming a common way for agencies to engage the public while finding useful public-service applications that could have cost a significant amount to develop via a contract.

Cities such as New York and Washington have staged app contests in which developers made use of those cities’ data. NASA, along with the Harvard Business School, since October 2010 has held a number of developer competitions through its NASA Tournament Lab.


About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.


  • business meeting (Monkey Business Images/

    Civic tech volunteers help states with legacy systems

    As COVID-19 exposed vulnerabilities in state and local government IT systems, the newly formed U.S. Digital Response stepped in to help. Its successes offer insight into existing barriers and the future of the civic tech movement.

  • data analytics (

    More visible data helps drive DOD decision-making

    CDOs in the Defense Department are opening up their data to take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning tools that help surface insights and improve decision-making.

Stay Connected