Category Archives: Contests and Games

ESA sponsors AI competition to spot GEO objects in low-cost telescope images

ESA sponsoring a new citizen science challenge at Kelvins- “ESA’s Advanced Concepts Competitions”. In the spotGEO Challenge, held in partnership with the  University of Adelaide,

… you are asked to develop an algorithm to detect Geostationary orbiting objects from simple png images (or frames) acquired by an unknown, low-cost ground-based telescope. Can you learn on how to cope with cloud cover, atmospheric/weather effects, light pollution, sensor noise/defects, star occlusions and more?

Check out the problem description, the dataset and the starter-kit (the dataset and the starter kit will only be available at the competition start date).

The start date is June 8, 2020. Here’s the official announcement from ESA:

Telescope-peering AI challenged to spot mystery space objects

“Artificial objects in or near geostationary orbit appear stationary or nearly stationary compared to the background stars, which appear to move due to Earth’s rotation, as shown in this sequence of observed images.” Credits: ESA/Univ. Adelaide

ESA’s latest public competition challenges ‘citizen scientists’ to combine AI with observations from low-cost telescopes to pick out mystery objects in and around geostationary orbit, thousands of kilometres above Earth.

Geostationary orbit is also known as the ‘Clarke belt’ – science fiction writer Sir Arthur C Clarke forecast it back in 1945. The further up that satellites orbit, the slower they need to travel to overcome Earth’s gravity. Orbiting at approximately 36 000 km altitude directly above the equator, satellite velocity precisely matches Earth’s rotation, enabling them hover above the same spots in the sky.

The result has been called the most valuable real estate in our solar system: a 265 000 km ring of telecommunications, meteorology and other satellites around our planet, carefully regulated by the International Telecommunication Union.

Despite its economic value however, geostationary orbit – as well as adjacent ‘geosynchronous’ orbits – must contend with the same problems of space debris also seen in lower orbits. ESA and other space agencies perform regular monitoring to identify and track potentially-hazardous debris items. This is usually done using either high-power radar or high-performance astronomical telescopes.

“Geostationary orbit is generally well managed and documented, partly because of its immense practical and commercial value,” notes Tat-Jun Chin of the University of Adelaide, partnering with ESA on the competition. “However, precisely because of that value we should put more efforts into further understanding and protecting it.”

Dario Izzo of ESA’s Advanced Concepts Team (ACT) adds:

“So, for our new ‘spotGEO’ competition, we want to see how well low-cost telescopes combined with tailored AI algorithms can identify ‘resident space objects’ at these altitudes.”

Competition entrants will receive a dataset made up of sets of five sequential images of unspecified segments of the geostationary belt, then challenged to pick out artificial objects against the surrounding stars.

This small telescope at the Univ. of Adelaide was used to “gather imagery of geostationary artificial objects for ESA’s GEOspot competition”. Credits: Univ. Adelaide/ESA

In theory this is made easier because such objects will remain static (or nearly static) compared to the background starfield, which appears to move because of Earth’s rotation. In practice, with atmospheric distortion and an approximately 40-second exposure time for each single image the objects will be smeared out and dimmed. Clouds, light pollution and sensor noise also add to the challenge.

“The sheer distance between the observer and the target objects makes this a difficult problem,” adds Dario.

“Each pixel observed at this altitude corresponds to an arc length of about 800 m – so the objects of interest are much smaller than a single pixel. But success should help us keep better watch on this essential region of space around our planet.”

Tat-Jun Chin and his team made contact with the ACT after winning the Pose Estimation Challenge, their previous space-themed AI competition, on estimating the orientation of distant satellites from a dataset of still images.

“Deep learning algorithms can be trained through such datasets to detect visual features of interest,” he notes. “Researchers in AI – particularly computer vision and machine learning – understand that having common datasets is vital towards making progress. These allow different methods to be compared objectively, so that the community can learn the best practices then apply them for their respective problems.

“Generally speaking, sharing datasets in space research is not so common, but the excellent Kelvins competitions are changing this, and after getting to know the ACT we decided to contribute our own.”

The University of Adelaide team coincidentally acquired these images during an observing campaign during the last Australian summer, so that forest fire smoke adds to the observing difficulty.

This is the latest competition hosted at the ACT’s Kelvins website, named after the temperature unit of measurement – with the idea that competitors should aim to reach the lowest possible error, as close as possible to absolute zero. The spotGEO dataset will be available there from 8 June, at the start of the three-month competition.

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Xtronaut: The Game of Solar System Exploration

“Xtronaut 2.0: The game of solar system exploration” – Xplore sponsors Kickstarter campaign

An announcement from Xtronaut:

Xplore Sponsors Xtronaut’s Kickstarter Campaign,
Donates Space Games to The Boeing Academy
for STEM Learning at The Museum of Flight

Xplore’s Xcraft™ Now Featured in
XTRONAUT 2.0: The Game of Solar System Exploration,
the award-winning space-themed board game

Xplore Xcraft™ playing card in Xtronaut 2.0 Game

Xtronaut 2.0, a fun, multi-player game for players ages eight and up, teaches the real-world challenges of solar system exploration and educates players on how to plan missions to deep space. Xplore’s high-performance spacecraft, the Xcraft™, is a new feature in Xtronaut 2.0, which mirrors real-life space missions. Players can plan exploration missions and send the Xcraft™ to the Moon, Mars, Venus, and asteroids, including Bennu, the target of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return mission. Spacecraft in the game can launch on SpaceX, ULA, and NASA-SLS rockets. Planetary scientist Dr. Dante Lauretta created Xtronaut with CEO Michael Lyon. Lauretta is a University of Arizona Professor and Principal Investigator for OSIRIS-REx. Lyon, while at Space Adventures, helped orchestrate the private astronaut flights for Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth to the International Space Station.

Xplore founder and Chief Operating Officer Lisa Rich said,

“Xtronaut 2.0 provides valuable education about space missions, builds strategic skills, and inspires players to pursue STEM careers. We are proud to have the Xcraft™ featured in Xtronaut 2.0 and are delighted that our sponsorship enables us to give 120 games to the youth organization of our choice. Xplore selected The Boeing Academy for STEM Learning at The Museum of Flight to receive our gift to support their mission to enhance educational opportunities for young people, particularly students of color, females, and those from low income families and communities to access and pursue STEM pathways.”

Reba Gilman, Vice President of Education for The Museum of Flight said,

“The Boeing Academy for STEM Learning at The Museum of Flight is pleased to accept Xplore’s generous gift of 120 Xtronaut 2.0 games, and we look forward to distributing them among our students. Xplore aligns well with our goal of promoting STEM opportunities. They are a creative company that thinks out-of-the box in terms of how their commercial missions to space will impact the lives of others. While scientists, universities, national space agencies, civilian space agencies, national security space agencies and others will fly with them, our students can also benefit from their missions to space.” She added, “We appreciate the leadership of Xplore’s female founder, Lisa Rich, and are thankful Xplore is giving us this positive stay-at-home activity that students will enjoy during these uncertain times.”

Dr. Dante Lauretta said:

“We are excited to include Xplore as a real-world example of next-generation missions to space. Our original game allows players to fly heritage spacecraft. With Xtronaut 2.0, we have the added feature of flying the Xcraft™ as a small payload with enhanced capability for missions to our solar system. Our players will love this feature as it adds another layer of real-world authenticity to the game.” He added, “We are pleased that our game will support The Museum of Flight. Xtronaut 2.0 is a constructive way for students enrolled in The Boeing Academy for STEM Learning’s programs to expand their knowledge of the aerospace industry and encourage them to be a part of it.”

Xtronaut 2.0 is currently available on Kickstarter. To obtain a copy or sponsor games to give to the youth organization of your choice, visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/xtronaut/xtronaut-2?ref=discovery&term=xtronaut

More cards in the Xtronaut game.

About Xplore: Xplore is a Seattle-based commercial deep space company offering Space as a ServiceTM. Xplore provides hosted payloads, communication relay services and exclusive datasets to its customers via a fleet of networked multi-mission spacecraft.

The mission of Xplore is to expand robotic exploration via commercial Xpeditions™ at and beyond Earth, to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Lagrange Points and near-Earth asteroids in the inner solar system. Xplore provides hosted payload services for scientific instruments and technology demonstrations for national space agencies, national security agencies, sovereign space agencies and universities. Visit: https://www.xplore.com

About Xtronaut Enterprises, Inc.: Dante Lauretta and Michael Lyon founded Xtronaut Enterprises to develop innovative educational content associated with space exploration. Dr. Lauretta has spent over 16 years developing and leading the OSIRIS-REx mission. Xtronaut also produces the award-winning game Constellations: The Game of Stargazing and the Night Sky and Downlink: The Game of Planetary Discovery. Visit: https://xtronaut.com/

Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/xtronaut/xtronaut-the-game-of-solar-system-exploration

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Here is an interview with Xtronaut CEO Michael Lyon by Jason Kanigan of the Cold Star Project:

Michael Lyon is an attorney, startup accelerator mentor and space tourism pioneer. I’ve interviewed him for the full format Cold Star Project show (link below), and today he’s back to share Xtronaut 2.0. It’s a fun and educational space board game he has co-created that has already achieved 2X its funding target on Kickstarter. Xtronaut 2.0 was co-created by Dante Lauretta of Osiris-REx fame. Bill Nye and the Planetary Society are also involved. I want you to have the chance to hear about it, and maybe pick up some of the cool swag that comes along with backing the idea. Check out the Kickstarter for Xtronaut 2.0 here: https://coldstartech.com/msbxtronaut

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Xtronaut: The Game of Solar System Exploration

NASA opens contest to name next Mars rover

NASA has opened Name the Rover Contest for the Mars 2020 mission, which is set to launch in July of next year.  Here is the announcement from NASA:

NASA Invites Students to Name Next Mars Rover

Red rover, red rover, send a name for Mars 2020 right over! NASA is recruiting help from students nationwide to find a name for its next Mars rover mission.

Starting Tuesday, K-12 students in U.S. public, private and home schools can enter the Mars 2020 Name the Rover essay contest. One grand prize winner will name the rover and be invited to see the spacecraft launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The Name the Rover contest is part of NASA’s efforts to engage students in the STEM enterprise behind Mars exploration and inspire interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“This naming contest is a wonderful opportunity for our nation’s youth to get involved with NASA’s Moon to Mars missions,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “It is an exciting way to engage with a rover that will likely serve as the first leg of a Mars Sample return campaign, collecting and caching core samples from the Martian surface for scientists here on Earth to study for the first time.”

The Mars 2020 rover is a 2,300-pound robotic scientist that will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

“Our Mars 2020 rover has fully taken shape over the past several months, as the project team installed various components onto the chassis: the computer brain and electronics; wheels and mobility system; robotic arm; remote sensing mast; the seven science instruments; and finally, the sample caching system,” said George Tahu, Mars 2020 program executive. “All that’s missing is a great name!”

To enter the contest, students must submit by Nov. 1 their proposed rover name and a short essay, no more than 150 words, explaining why their proposed name should be chosen. The essays will be divided into three groups, by grade level – K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 – and judged on the appropriateness, significance and originality of their proposed name, and the originality and quality of their essay, and/or finalist interview presentation.

Fifty-two semifinalists will be selected per group, each representing their respective state or U.S. territory. Three finalists then will be selected from each group to advance to the final round.

As part of the final selection process, the public will have an opportunity to vote online on the nine finalists in January 2020. NASA plans to announce the selected name on Feb. 18, 2020 – exactly one year before the rover will land on the surface of Mars.

For complete contest and prize details, visit: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/participate/name-the-rover/

The naming contest partnership is part of a Space Act Agreement between NASA, Battelle of Columbus, Ohio, and Future Engineers of Burbank, California, in educational and public outreach efforts.

Name the Rover Contest

Register to be a Judge

NASA is seeking volunteers to help judge the thousands of contest entries anticipated to pour in from around the country. U.S. residents over 18 years old who are interested in offering approximately five hours of their time to review submissions should register to be a judge at: https://www.futureengineers.org/registration/judge/nametherover

Rover Update

With all major elements onboard and initial functional checks complete, Mars 2020’s Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations team is preparing the rover and its sky crane descent stage for the next big test: simulating the vibration dynamics of launch and the thermal environment the rover will experience on the surface of Mars.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages rover development for the agency. The Launch Services Program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for launch management.

For more about NASA’s Moon to Mars plans, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars

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The Case for Space:
How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up
a Future of Limitless Possibility

‘First Women on the Moon’ 2019 Essay Contest

The International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and the Moon Village Association (MVA) are sponsoring the

‘FIRST WOMEN ON THE MOON’ 2019 ESSAY CONTEST
200-Word Submission Due 10 October 2019

2019 FWotM Essay Contest Announcement

Grand Prize: All-expenses-paid participation at ILOA Galaxy Forum China: Hainan, 25-28 February 2020 provided by ILOA
And one-on-one Astronaut briefing(s) provided by the Moon Village Association

Introduction: Working to help to fulfill the Apollo 11 message ‘in peace for all’, ILOA and MVA are sponsoring the 2019 First Women on the Moon Essay Contest. Only 63 women have been to space, and of the 12 Moonwalkers, all have been men. The first step toward realizing a future where peoples of varied genders, geographies and generations live off-planet may begin with The First Women on the Moon.

Grand Prize: Winner will attend all sessions, ceremonies and activities at ILOA Galaxy Forum China 2020, Hainan 25-28 February, and participate in the “First Women on the Moon” special luncheon panel featuring invited Astronauts Soyeon Yi, Naoko Yamazaki, other women Astronauts from China and USA (TBD); and potentially an Apollo Moonwalker. Direct purchase by ILOA will cover round-trip regular class airline travel to Hainan Island, hotel accommodation at Hilton Wenchang, Galaxy Forum registration fee and meals. Reimbursement for reasonable traveling incidentals such as meals at airports and ground transportation will be covered. Reimbursement for passport and visa, and expedited fees, will also be provided, if necessary.

MVA will provide direct, one-on-one Astronaut briefing(s) for a total of up to 3 hours with the winner, by skype or in person, at a date to be mutually agreed, to answer questions they may have about living and working in space, and perhaps one day on the Moon.

How to enter: Visit www.galaxyforum.org and use the online form to describe the significance of the First Women landing on the Moon, and why you would like to be one of the First Women on the Moon –  in 200 words or less. Submit your essay with your full name, age, mailing address, and telephone number.

Optional graphic: Contestants are encouraged, but not required, to submit an original drawing, photograph, or image of any size to support their essay. Please do not submit any copyrighted or other intellectual property materials.

Deadline: All entries due by 10 October 2019 at 12:00 Hawaii Standard Time (UTC-10).

Eligibility: Contest is open to all women 21 years of age or older by 25 February 2019, from any country, nation, continent, background and ability. English is the main language of Galaxy Forum China, Hainan, therefore we ask for essays to be submitted in English. Contestant must already have or be eligible to receive a Passport and a Visa to travel to Hainan, China for 25-28 February 2020.

Galaxy Forum Hainan 2020 – China: Developing program and details for Galaxy Forum China 2020 may be found here: https://galaxyforum.org/galaxy-forum-china-2020-hainan/

Further information and contact: Please visit the websites for International Lunar Observatory Association, Galaxy Forum, or Moon Village Association.

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See also the update on the winner and other entrants for the 2018 ‘First Women on the Moon’ Essay Contest.

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Galaxy Girls:
50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space

OK Go contest to send student “art experiments” to space on Blue’s New Shepard

The band OK Go is hosting the Art In Space contest in which a “student art experiment” will fly to space on the Blue Origin‘s suborbital New Shepard rocket vehicle. OK Go is partnering on the contest with the Playful Learning Lab at the University of St Thomas, and sponsor Cognizant Technology Solutions. Here is the contest announcement from Cognizant

What would happen if an art experiment was launched into space? That’s the question that Grammy award-winning rock band OK Go is hoping to answer through its non-profit venture OK Go Sandbox.

In partnership with the Playful Learning Lab at the University of St. Thomas, the band is inviting students ages 11 to 18 to submit ideas for art experiments that will take place aboard the Blue Origin New Shepard spacecraft. Blue Origin’s New Shepard is a reusable spacecraft designed to take payloads — and someday, people — into suborbital space. As part of its ongoing commitment to promoting creativity and inspiring interest in science, technology, engineering and math, Cognizant is sponsoring the “Art in Space” contest.

“Cognizant helps our clients across industries – including healthcare, life sciences, banking, retail, energy and technology – solve some of the world’s most complex challenges, and we will look to the next generation of creative thinkers to further our work,” said Jim Lennox, Cognizant’s Chief People Officer. “The resources provided by OK Go and Playful Learning Lab to help teachers inspire students is so important. We look forward to seeing how young minds around the world respond to the ‘Art in Space’ challenge.”

Students from around the world are invited to submit their project ideas; the deadline to enter is May 6. To read the contest guidelines and to learn more, click here.

The contest is the latest public involvement initiative at the band’s OK Go Sandbox project.

OK Go wants to put your student art experiment on a spaceship!

OK Go thinks creativity is all about the joy of experimentation.

Making a music video in microgravity was one big experiment. 

We tried all sorts of creative ideas and put them to the test within the limitations of physics and gravity.

Now we want you to try, but in actual space! The Art in Space contest invites your creative art and science minds to dream up your own cool experiments to send into suborbital space onboard the New Shepard spacecraft.

All you need is a great idea — if you win, our experts will help build it.

Got questions? We’ve got answers* (some answers, the rest are up to you!)

The band is well known for the innovative videos for their songs. Here is one filmed on an airplane that flew parabolic trajectories to product short periods of weightlessness:

More about the contest:

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Brief Answers to the Big Questions – Stephen Hawking