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18 Oct 2018, 7:28

The NASA Space Apps Challenge 2018


First held in 2012, The International Space Apps Challenge is a massive world-wide hackathon coordinated by NASA that takes place over a 48 hour period in hundreds of city locations that attracts thousands of participants. The purpose is to collaboratively problem solve issues that affect both life on Earth and our future activities in space. This year, this annual event takes place between the 19th of October and the 21st, so, if you fancy taking on a challenge and enjoy working as a team then read on!

Don’t let the name of the challenge fool you, it’s not just about creating apps, you can tackle a challenge using hardware, Robotics, data visualisation and coding or whatever takes your fancy. The idea is to demonstrate your problem-solving skills, inspire others, share your talents and find solutions and learn along the way.

2017 saw over 25000 participants in 187 cities and 69 countries take part in the Space Apps Challenge, collaboratively they faced 25 individual challenges and together they created over 2000 solutions. This year, (which is also NASA’s 60th birthday) those figures are guaranteed to be smashed as people around the globe sign-up to offer solutions to help solve real-world problems, educate others and themselves and reach for the stars. Whether you are a Scientist, an Artist, a Student an Engineer or a beginner in your field of endeavour you are more than welcome to sign-up and join in.

Find your nearest Space Apps Challenge Location

Six categories have been defined by NASA at this year’s Space Apps Challenge with 20 challenges in total spread across them, and they almost all rely on you using NASA data sets as a resource, let’s have a look…

The Categories and Challenges

Can you Build A…

Design by Nature

Design an autonomous free-flyer to inspect a spacecraft for damage from Micro-Meteoroid and Orbital Debris (MMOD).  Out in space, MMOD can seriously damage spacecraft, what’s needed is a simple and quick way of checking for damage before it proves lethal.

Makes Sense Out of Mars

Develop a sensor to be used by humans on Mars. It won’t be long before we are able to go to Mars, what features would you like to look at and monitor? There are limitless options for this challenge, will your sensor device fly? Be worn by a settler on Mars, tunnel underground? It’s up to you!

Do YOU Know When the Next Rocket Launch is?

Create a tool to track international rocket launch information. The challenge here is to design an app, a website or online tool that showcases all the projected flight schedules and launch dates for all the latest rocket missions.

Invent Your Own Challenge

Pose your own challenge, and create a solution of your own choosing! If you have an idea that doesn’t exactly fit in with any of the challenges then this is the place for you!


Help Others Discover the Earth

Artify the Earth

Use NASA Earth imagery date to create 1) an art piece, or 2) a tool that allows the imagery to be manipulated to create unique pieces of art. NASA has collected thousands of images of the Earth for 50 years, use these as a starting point for your inspiration and let your artistic talent flow.

1D, 2D, 3D, Go!

Create and deploy web apps that will enable anyone to explore the Earth from orbit! Visualise Earth science satellites and mission data using interactive virtual globes, such as NASA’s Web WorldWind. Use data sets from NASA’s Open Data Portal to present fire, ice, clouds, meteorites, or water temperature spectra.

Space Apps: The Documentary

Create a short documentary to capture the essence of NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge. People from all walks of life come together during the Space Apps Challenge, the brief for this task is to create a 5-minute video of what NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge means to you.


Volcanoes, Icebergs, and Asteroids (oh my)

Don’t Forget the Can Opener!

Create an easy-to-use way for people to develop their own custom checklists, both items and plans, for specific kinds of disasters such as floods and volcanic activity. Use NASA resources such as images, videos, or data visualisations to illustrate each disaster type to help people understand what they will need to prepare.

Spot That Fire!

Build a crowdsourcing tool for citizens to contribute to the early detection, verification, tracking, visualisation and notification of wildfires. Certain areas of the world have witnessed terrible wildfires, causing the loss of life and habit to both people and animals, finding an early warning system is paramount.

Hello, Bennu!

Tell the world about the asteroid named Bennu. Bennu has a high probability of hitting the Earth in the 22nd century and the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is currently on its way to intercept Bennu and report on its physical and chemical properties. Your challenge is to create a video that tells the world all about Bennu.


What the World Needs Now is…

Looking GLOBE-ally

Analyse and/or display data to communicate interesting findings or improve public understanding of our home planet. NASA’s Globe app collects data from citizen scientists around the world who are looking at mosquito habitats, clouds, land cover and more. Linking the data with satellite observations of clouds, for instance, provides a unique perspective, allowing us to see atmospheric processes from two decidedly different viewpoints.

The Land Where Displaced People Settle

Characterise land cover/land use at informal settlements of displaced populations using NASA satellite datasets. Millions of people have been displaced globally due to natural disasters and conflicts. Lots of these people settle in unplanned, usually rural settlements sometimes for many years and these locations are often poorly-mapped, with little data supporting things like access to water and food.

Health Makes Wealth

Integrate NASA Earth science data and citizen science data to learn more about the connections between human, animal and environmental health. The ecosystems of our world are constantly adapting to a range of environmental conditions, such as extreme weather patterns, natural disasters and seasonal variations. The goal is to help visualise and showcase these changes by combining citizen science with NASA data.


An Icy Glare

Polar Quest

Design a quest-like game to teach others about polar environments and how they are changing. Use NASA data to help adventurers plan their quest and present them with challenges along the way. Every year scientists plan expeditions to the most extreme and inhospitable areas on earth, how can you present NASA data to help these explorers plan their journey?

Find My Cryosphere

Design an app that lets a user pick a location and learn about the parts of the Earth’s cryosphere that impact that location. The cryosphere is areas of the world where water is frozen solid, ice sheets, glaciers, snow, permafrost, sea ice etc. We may not all experience these locations directly but we all feel the impact of them via weather patterns and sea level activity.

Polar Opposites

Design a data analysis and/or visualisation tool to show the spatial and temporal changes in the Arctic and Antarctic ice to a general audience. Data about the North and South Poles aren’t just useful to scientists who study the cryosphere but to international trade and planetary science as well as others. Find a way to tell the story of the Poles over time and in their three dimensions.


A Universe of Beauty and Wonder

On the Shoulders of Giants

Create a game using images from the Hubble Space Telescope as integral components. Since the 1990’s Hubble has been observing the universe from an unobstructed vantage point, making over 1.3 million observations since it was launched. We’ve seen nebulae, distant galaxies and even the collision of asteroids, use these images to create a game, which could be a board game, or perhaps a VR one, that showcases Hubble’s vast collection of imagery.

Remix The Golden Record

Develop a concept for a time capsule with content to educate an extra-terrestrial civilisation about human culture and our solar system. There is already a collection of data about the inhabitants of Earth exiting our solar system, what type of content would you like to include that captures the essence of humanity?

Mission to the Moon!

Use NASA Date to plan a rover mission on the Moon! The challenge is to plan a rover mission trip to the moon, what research would it do and utilise Astro-visualisation to identify a potential landing site for a lunar rover.

Virtual Space Exploration

Generate Virtual Reality environments for the surface of the Moon and Mars! Obtain 3D models from NASA resources, such as Moon Trek and Mars Trek. Integrate 3D models of surface exploration systems and habitats. Develop and deploy the virtual world at a hosting service that enables the public to explore the Moon and/or Mars.

Visit the Space Apps Challenge Website

As you can see there are loads of challenges to keep you and perhaps your team busy over those 48 hours, have a read of the further details in the links above and you might find something interesting?

DesignSpark is sponsoring one of the International Space Apps Challenge events taking place in the UK that has been origanised by TechExeter, in Exeter on the 20th - 21st of October 2018. Whilst there we will be discovering what it’s all about, reporting live and maybe rolling up our sleeves and getting involved too! Stay tuned for further articles and updates after the event as well!

Countless years taking things to bits to see how they Fighting the good SEO & content battle at Kempston Controls! Still Number 3 in the XP table - Booooom!

18 Oct 2018, 7:28