New Space and Tech

NASA JSC Space Life Sciences Directorate Seeks Innovative Ideas

By Keith Cowing
April 8, 2013
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NASA Kicks Off Open Innovation Competition To Benefit Spaceflight

NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston kicked off an experimental programming competition today in conjunction with TopCoder, Inc. and researchers from Harvard Business School and London Business School. The competition, conducted for the center?s Space Life Sciences Directorate (SLSD), is aimed at developing algorithms that optimize medical kits for long-duration human space exploration.

“The Space Life Sciences strategy involves developing collaborative business models to drive innovation,” said Dr. Jeffrey Davis, SLSD director. “This experimental competition is one example of our ongoing commitment to finding new approaches to problem solving and successfully managing our portfolio.”
The goal of NASA’s space life sciences work is to optimize human health and productivity for space exploration before, during and after the actual spaceflight experience. In this experiment, competitors will develop algorithms that will help NASA?s flight surgeons make decisions involved with optimizing the contents of the medical supplies kit that may one day be carried on board long-term space missions. Submissions will be compared with the results of an existing computer model that has simulated the expected medical occurrences and outcomes for various mission scenarios.

The online competition runs Nov. 4 to 14 and is open to all TopCoder members but will be limited to 480 members. More than $24,000 in cash and prizes is at stake. For full registration information and rules, visit:

The competition originated when professor Karim R. Lakhani of Harvard Business School and professor Kevin Boudreau of London Business School invited NASA to provide a compelling technical challenge to monitor and analyze the results from an open innovation management perspective. Their research project is funded by grants from the London Business School M-Lab and the Harvard Business School.

TopCoder is a competitive software development community with more than 220,000 developers representing more than 200 countries that offers competition-based development using a unique model of open innovation.

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit:

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.