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IBM engineers at NASA.

IBM engineers at NASA.

By Sandy Carter

In 1969, the world witnessed one of the greatest engineering achievements of all time, landing two astronauts on the moon for the first time. NASA used IBM technology to calculate the enormous amount of liftoff data needed for astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin to meet the command module for the flight back to Earth, and also called on our resources in managing subsequent Apollo missions.

This weekend, nearly half a century later, IBM is sponsoring the NASA Space App Challenge to give developers, students, scientists, educators, and entrepreneurs a chance to take part in the next era of space innovation by helping them devise solutions that address challenges facing Earth, humans, robotics and space exploration.

On April 11-12, more than 10,000 developers are expected to participate across 134 cities and online via the Virtual Challenge to develop mobile applications, software, hardware, data visualization and platform solutions that address these challenges. Like the IBM engineers who supported the Apollo missions, they will be tasked with turning NASA’s data into impactful solutions that further space exploration and improve life on Earth. And like the IBM engineers before them, they will have access to the latest technologies and most innovative experts to accomplish this feat – including:

  • Cloud computing – 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 for to some of the most daunting challenges facing our civilization. IBM’s digital innovation platform, Bluemix will be offered for developers to collaborate on as they mine and make sense of that data; and ultimately put it to work. With the IBM Cloud, team members from around the world can rapidly iterate on applications using agile methods before submitting them for judging at the end of the challenge.
  • Mobile, Analytics and Internet of Things technologies – Bluemix offers a growing catalogue of services for tools in categories such as Big Data, social, mobile, security, the Internet of Things, and even its powerful cognitive computing engine, Watson Analytics. Developers participating in the challenge can use these services to analyze NASA data, collect and make sense of data from services for the internet of things, or integrate mobile services for applications designed to be accessed across channels.
  • Sandy Carter, General Manager, Cloud Ecosystem and Developers

    Sandy Carter, General Manager, Cloud Ecosystem and Developers

    Technical Experts – IBM will have technical experts onsite at 26 cities around the world where they will work side-by-side with developers to help them build applications for the challenge. IBM will also provide dedicated virtual support personnel for an additional 36 cities, where contestants at these locations can engage with IBM experts for guidance and mentorship online or over the phone.

The moon landing and IBM’s previous work with NASA are icons of progress and were crucial events in increasing attention and interest in STEM study in the US and globally.

With its role in the Space App Challenge, IBM aims to inspire the next-generation developer and enable them to create cloud-based innovations that could have the same impact on space exploration and life on earth.

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