This weekend, US space agency NASA will be launching its Space Apps Challenge for developers across the world to take part in a hackathon-style event to create and collaborate on projects relevant to space exploration, and it’s coming to Cork.
NASA instigated the event to encourage the development of collaborative problem solving with a goal of producing relevant open-source solutions to address the global needs applicable to both life on Earth and life in space.
This year, the Space Apps challenge will feature 40 challenges and 25 projects from last year’s Space Apps that support NASA’s mission directorates in five themes: Earth watch, technology in space, human spaceflight, robotics and asteroids.
Spread across over 100 countries, this year also marks the return of Ireland’s representation in this collaboration after a one-year hiatus.
First coming to Ireland in 2010 and based in Dublin, this year’s challenge will mark the first sponsored event which will be spread across University College Cork (UCC)’s Boole Basement and the Lifetime Labworks on the Old Cork Waterworks.
Two days of space innovation
On the morning of 12 April, registration begins and teams and ideas will start forming in the UCC building before the teams jump into their respective innovations that could potentially change the future of spaceflight.
For a truly international shared experience, the entire day will be streamed live on the internet and will allow everyone to chat with the other countries hosting the event.
There are also plans for a Google Hangout with the NASA chief scientist, deputy CIO and two astronauts, who will be talking about their time in space.
Because of their proximity, Cork and cities in the UK hosting similar events, such as London and Edinburgh, will be working closely together and this had helped Ireland get the event up and running.
This year will also mark the first time the event is being sponsored in Ireland, by EMC, which has provided more than €300 worth of prizes for the top two projects to be selected by the panel of judges from both EMC and UCC.
The winning teams will then compete globally, with NASA picking the best projects to win the top global prize of an invitation to see a NASA rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The event itself has been organised by John O’Donoghue, managing director of Rewrite Science, whose organisation tries to bring the magic of science to the general public through publications and online materials. According to him, Ireland needs to be more aware of its space technology potential.
“Not a lot of people are aware that we have been part of the European Space Agency (ESA) since 1975 and that we do get a lot of contracts (to develop space technology) every year with the European Space Agency.
“They’re not really to do with space flight itself but they’re usually part of an engine or part of something else but Ireland has been involved with space technology for quite some time and nobody seems to realise it.”