There are millions of asteroids in our solar system. Many of them pass very close to Earth without a problem, such as NEA DX110 that passed by closer than the moon last week. Space is pretty big so it’s much easier to miss us than hit us, but the odds don’t always work out that way and we want to be ready.
NASA’s Near Earth Object Observation Program is constantly on the lookout for asteroids and other objects that could potentially pose a risk of hitting Earth, so that we don’t suffer the same fate as the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, they generate a lot more data than they can analyze in a timely manner. Even with some citizen science projects lending a hand, there is still a lot of work to be done.
NASA has partnered up with the privately-owned Planetary Resources to host the Asteroid Data Hunter Grand Challenge. The contest aims to find all asteroids that are potential threats and determine how to handle them. Competitors will be able to make observations or write computer code that can identify, track, and characterize asteroids in addition to creating a plan to mitigate any damage they may cause.
The contest begins on Monday March 17 and ends August 22. The winning solutions for each stage of development will receive part of the $35,000 prize. There are no special qualifications necessary. If you’d like to get involved, the challenge's website has more details and registration information.
Happy asteroid hunting!