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Earlier this summer NASA announced its “asteroid grand challenge“, a campaign to enlist the public in helping the space agency come up with ideas for defending against asteroids that could threaten earth. While NASA spokesperson Sarah Ramsey said the agency has identified 95 percent of all “planet killer” asteroids and there is no threat on the horizon, NASA is still looking for creative ideas aimed at redirecting, capturing, and defending against earth-bound asteroids. And NASA is specifically asking the maker community for help.

“The maker community is a critical part of this,” she said.

NASA is big on public challenges and has several additional ones in the works.

Sam Ortega, manager of the Centennial Challenges Program at NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, will be at World Maker Faire New York this weekend and said public challenges allow NASA to get a variety of ideas to a single problem.

“Seeing solutions from people with all kinds of different skills, knowledge, interests and imagination gives us a very different insight than what can be accomplished by traditional NASA contracts and internal studies,” he told MAKE’s Alasdair Allan in an interview. “There will always be another technology riddle to solve, and we believe there are people out there with revolutionary answers who just need the right opportunity to make them happen.”

As for the asteroid challenge, Ramsey said once a threatening asteroid is identified, it doesn’t take much to move it off its course for earth.

“It literally requires just a nudge,” she said.

How one goes about nudging a giant space rock hurtling toward earth is not so simple and she’s hoping the maker community and pubic at large can offer some creative thinking on the subject.

“There are some really cool ideas out there,” she said.

The video above shows how a space craft might rendezvous with a captured asteroid, but it doesn’t show how the asteroid was corralled. I guess that’s for makers to figure out.

Mason Peck, NASA’s chief technologist, will be at World Maker Faire this weekend talking about the Asteroid Grand Challenge and how makers can get involved.

“Unlike traditional NASA missions of exploration and science, this grand challenge is driven by the idea that protecting our planet is an issue bigger than any one program, mission or country,” Peck said. “For the first time, NASA has reached out to industry, academia, stakeholder organizations and private citizens for ideas on how to find, track and deflect asteroids. These partnerships represent a new way of doing business for NASA and a call to action for makers: join us to become a critical part of the future of space exploration.”

Stop by NASA’s booth at World Maker Faire and learn how you might save the planet.

Stett Holbrook

Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.


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