NASA code-a-thon uses IBM cloud to build space tech

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Thousands of developers are working on robotics, drones and apps aimed at space exploration

NASA this weekend is pulling together more than 10,000 developers, scientists, students and entrepreneurs across 62 countries for a code-a-thon aimed at building technology for space exploration.

Using IBM's cloud development platform, Bluemix, participants will be tasked with developing mobile apps, software, hardware, data visualization and platform solutions. The technology being developed will address one of 35 different challenges across four research topic areas -- outer space, Earth, humans and robotics.

The individual challenges include areas like designing a spacecraft for an asteroid mission, creating a robotic asteroid-hunting machine, and creating a drone to be used on a spacecraft.

Called the NASA Space App Challenge, the three-day code-a-thon will offer participants more than 200 NASA data sources, including data sets, services and tools, supplied through real-life missions and technology.

"IBM is supporting the NASA Space App Challenge because we saw a great opportunity to contribute to an important cause," said Sandy Carter, general manager of IBM's Cloud Ecosystem and Developers. "Not only are we helping participants build applications that will be used to improve space exploration and life on earth - two initiatives that impact all of humanity - but we're also helping them build their skills for cloud development while helping to cultivate an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields."

By working with IBM's Bluemix, developers should be able to use more than 100 cloud-based development tools, ranging from services for Watson analytics to tools for managing data of Internet of Things technologies. They'll also have access to NASA's data via the cloud, as well as being able to quickly compose, test and deploy their apps.

Carter noted that this weekend's challenge is a good opportunity -- not just for NASA to get some important coding done -- but for IBM to show off its cloud platform.

"The challenge is all about data and speed," said Cartner. "NASA is opening more than 200 data sources and asking participants -- some of which are on the same team but based in different cities around the world -- to leverage that data as they build solutions to some of the most daunting challenges facing our civilization in just two days.... Bluemix provides a global platform for these developers to collaborate on as they mine and make sense of that data and ultimately put it to work."

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