Press Release

NASA Competition Challenges Coders to Make Available Huge Store of Space Informatics

By SpaceRef Editor
April 16, 2012
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NASA Competition Challenges Coders to Make Available Huge Store of Space Informatics

NASA Tournament Lab Seeks Apps to Showcase 100 Terabyte Mountain of Data in Planetary System Archive and Make Information Accessible for Everyday Use

TopCoder(R), Inc., the world’s largest competitive Community of digital creators, in collaboration with the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) today announced the second phase of the Planetary Data System (PDS) Challenge series

This is an open call competition to create new mobile and web-based apps that will provide easier access for the general public to the Planetary Data System’s vast 100 terabyte archive of images and data gleaned from planetary missions from the past 30 years.

Competition registration is open now through 6:00 pm Eastern Friday, April 20 at This part of the PDS Challenge series is offering $13,000 in total cash awards, an invitation to visit the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA to experience the Mars Science Laboratory mission landing on site and an opportunity to meet members of the NASA astronaut-led judging panel.


* NASA is holding this series of open and collaborative innovation Challenges to help developers produce new and different ideas for mobile and web based apps with non-technical users in mind – millions of school children, their teachers and parents, game designers, puzzle enthusiasts or anyone with a curious mind and an interest in considering the possibilities of harnessing this wealth of space information for new discovery.

* The “Idea Generation Two: High School” track tasks students submit great ideas for the PDS application that are not specifically education but are inspiring. The “Mashup Challenge: Best Teaching Tool” competition seeks the best teaching tool developed by either building upon an idea from a previous mashup ideation competitions or by creating a completely original concept using the provided API. Cash & Travel Awards

* Total cash awards in the amount of $13,000 will be made during this phase of the series. Five top solutions in the High School category will each earn $500.00. The two top teaching tool solutions will earn $7,000 and $3, 000 respectively.

* If a US Citizen, the competition winner will receive an invitation for two to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA during the Mars Science Laboratory landing event on August 5, 2012. For more information on the Mars mission, please see;

* Members of the judging panel include: Dr. John Grunsfeld, former astronaut and leader of Science at NASA, Dr. James Green NASA’s Planetary Science Chief , Dr. Steven Mackwell Head of the Lunar and Planetary Institute and Ms. Rebecca Jaramillo, senior educator and former recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching.

“There is a huge untapped potential for the extraction of knowledge and insight from within the PDS archive which could be transformed by average people from different, non-scientific walks of life,” said Jason Crusan, NASA Chief Technologist for Human Exploration and Operations. “These kinds of Challenges are being made to produce useful tools which will allow, for example, high school-level students to access, organize and make their own discoveries from this huge volume of digital data.” About the Planetary Data System

The PDS is a free archive of space images, telemetry, models, and statistics gleaned from 30 years of NASA planetary missions. The archive is sponsored by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate as a basic resource for scientists around the world. All PDS-produced products (imagery, geolocational data, etc.) are peer-reviewed and well-documented via a system of online catalogs that are organized by planetary disciplines. Currently more than 100 terabytes of information reside at

About the NASA Tournament Lab

NASA, Harvard Business School, and TopCoder have established the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), which will enable the TopCoder community to compete amongst each other to create the most innovative, most efficient, and most optimized solutions for specific, real-world challenges being faced by NASA researchers.

The NTL provides an online virtual facility for NASA researchers with a computational or complex data processing challenge to “order” a solution, just like they would order laboratory tests or supplies. Chosen problems will be converted into problem statements and run as competitions within the TopCoder community. Software developers, algorithmists, and mathematicians will compete with each other to create a winning solution, as measured by internal code quality, performance against benchmarks, and the ability to be integrated into NASA systems. For more information, please go to

About TopCoder, Inc.

TopCoder is the world’s largest Open Innovation Community of digital creators with over 400,000 members representing algorithmists, software developers and creative artists from over 200 countries. The TopCoder Open Innovation Community creates digital assets including analytics, software and creative designs and solutions for a wide-ranging client base through a competitive, rigorous, standards based methodology. Combined with our extremely talented community this groundbreaking methodology results in superior outcomes for our clients. For more information about sponsoring TopCoder events and utilizing TopCoder’s software services and platforms, visit TopCoder is a registered trademark of TopCoder, Inc. in the United States and other countries. All other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Jim McKeown
TopCoder, Inc.
SOURCE TopCoder, Inc.

SpaceRef staff editor.