By: Mike Montgomery
In The Martian, Matt Damon’s Mark Watney scienced the shit out of a myriad of problems using his brains, his brawn and a ton of duct tape. If you watched the movie and thought, I could come up with some good ideas, you’re in luck. NASA is turning to the general population to solve some very space-specific problems.
The space agency’s latest crowdsourced contest involves a robotic arm. NASA is working with Freelancer.com to solicit ideas from every corner of the world. (The site is where all of the applications will originate.) It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, an engineer or an armchair rocket scientist; everyone now has a chance to have their best ideas heard.
“There’s plenty of literature that says you get the most innovative ideas from people applying the knowledge they have to new disciplines,” says Jason C. Crusan, NASA’s director of advanced exploration systems and the lead for the NASA Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation. “We’re giving them a shot.”
This isn’t the first time NASA has crowdsourced a solution. The agency’s innovation center opened in 2011 after President Obama signed a law authorizing (and encouraging) all government agencies to conduct prize competitions.
NASA’s first contest involved creating an algorithm to determine the right mix of medical supplies to take on a mission, taking into consideration the different needs of the crew, the risks involved and the tiny amount of available space.