The hackathon produced this prototype for a reusable spinach greenhouse for Mars


NASA's International Space Apps Challenge hacks out 770 proposals

In an April event spanning 83 cities and 48 countries over a two-day period, NASA staged the largest hackathon in history and the first to focus on the needs of government.

The global innovation pot-luck drew 9,147 people – 2,200 in virtual settings  -- and produced 770 proposals. Participants developed software, hardware, data visualizations and mobile or Web applications in one of 58 challenge categories designed to contribute to space exploration missions and help improve life on Earth. The space agency said many of the submitted solutions, “had direct tangible benefits” to existing NASA programs, including 40 apps for NASA’s Asteroid program and 37 for its Spot the ISS Station challenge.

Participants designed mini-satellites (CubeSats) for NASA’s Mars mission, data visualizations for the national air traffic control system and the “first interplanetary weather app,” using Mars science data. Other highlights included an underwater planetary rover using lights, thrusters and video cams and a proposal to steer the craft using Skype and a keyboard.

NASA went all-out to enable teams to use existing open data tools when collaborating on the challenge, including Twitter, Facebook and Google+. For teams that could not tap an existing platform, NASA created on open source Django application offering centralized registration. Incredibly, NASA said a team of only four people envisioned, planned and implemented the project in six months, earning NASA a return on investment estimated at more than $15 million.

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