5 Cool Participatory Space Projects

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From discovering supermassive black holes to saving Earth from deadly asteroids, here are five ways you can make scientific discoveries and actively contribute to space exploration.

Credit: NEAR Project, NLR, JHUAPL, Goddard SVS, NASA

Photo: NEAR Project, NLR, JHUAPL, Goddard SVS, NASA

Asteroid Data Hunter
Detecting asteroids is one of the most important steps in saving Earth from potentially deadly impacts. NASA needs your help to develop algorithms that can better identify asteroids and eliminate false positives. Asteroid Data Hunter is a contest for programmers to design such an algorithm to sort through data from telescopes on the ground. Better detection methods give everyone on Earth a fighting chance to deflect asteroids before they hit.

Credit: Tim Serge/Flickr

Photo: Tim Serge/Flickr

University Rover Challenge
The University Rover Challenge is your chance to build the next generation of Mars rovers that could one day work alongside astronauts. This annual competition in the Utah desert is open to university students around the world. The rovers of the future may look and work entirely differently than they do today (imagine robotic tumbleweeds or shape-shifting exoskeletons), and it’s up to you to design them.

Hungarian Google Lunar X-Prize Rover Puli together with Aouda.X Mars spacesuit. (c) OeWF (Katja Zanella-Kux)

Hungarian Google Lunar X-Prize Rover Puli together with Aouda.X Mars spacesuit. (c) OeWF (Katja Zanella-Kux)

Here’s a chance to help develop a body of research and strategies for future human Mars surface expeditions. The PolAres program is operated by the Austrian Space Forum, an organization that helps conduct Mars analog research through different disciplines, including robotics. Professionals and volunteers work with space organizations to do research and run educational programs focused on space technology — your work will help educate others on how to prepare for sending humans to Mars.

Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Baum and C. O'Dea (RIT), R. Perley and W. Cotton (NRAO/AUI/NSF), and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Photo: NASA, ESA, S. Baum and C. O’Dea (RIT), R. Perley and W. Cotton (NRAO/AUI/NSF), and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Galaxy Zoo Radio
Astronomers are looking to better understand how supermassive black holes form and evolve over time, and you can help. While we can’t visibly observe a black hole, we can find the massive jets of cosmic material that they spew out in the form of radio wavelengths. The astronomers at Galaxy Zoo Radio rely on human eyes to distinguish between images from radio and infrared telescopes — like an interstellar game of “spot the difference.”

Credit: AMSAT-UK, Wouter Weggelaar PA3WEG

Photo: AMSAT-UK, Wouter Weggelaar PA3WEG

Citizens In Space
Ever dreamed of being able to launch something into space? Citizens In Space has an open call for experiments to launch on a small satellite carried by XCOR’s suborbital rocketplane. Winners could be astrobiology experiments or searches for new space phenomena, or any creative, genuine experiment, as long as it fits in a CubeSat. Better still, Citizens In Space is also seeking a citizen astronaut to oversee the payload deployment from the flight.

Insatiable for more awesomeness? Spacehack.org is a directory of even more ways to participate in space exploration.

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