NASA and its Global Partners Launch Virtual Hackathon in Search for COVID-19 Solutions

In light of the present global situation, the U.S. space agency National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have launched an invitation to coders, entrepreneurs, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers, builders, artists, and technologists to participate in a virtual hackathon on May 30-31, dedicated to putting open data to work in developing solutions to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the global Space Apps COVID-19 Challenge, participants from around the world will create virtual teams that will use Earth observation data to propose solutions to COVID-19-related challenges ranging from studying the virus and its causes and its spread, down to the impact the disease has on the Earth system, all made in a 48-hour period.

“There’s a tremendous need for our collective ingenuity right now,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “I can’t imagine a more worthy focus than COVID-19 on which to direct the energy and enthusiasm from around the world with the Space Apps Challenge that always generates such amazing solutions.”

The unique capabilities of NASA and its partner space agencies in the areas of science and technology enable them to lend a hand in this time of global crisis. Since the start of the global outbreak, Earth science specialists from each agency have been exploring ways to use unique Earth observation data to aid understanding of the interplay of the Earth system – on global to local scales – with aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak, including, potentially, our ability to combat it. The hackathon will also examine the human and economic response to the virus.

On the one hand, the ESA will contribute data from the Sentinel missions (Sentinel-1, Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-5P) in the context of the European Copernicus program, led by the European Commission, along with data from Third Party contributing Missions, with a focus on assessing the impact on climate change and greenhouse gases and its impacts on the economic sector. ESA also seeks to contribute Earth observation experts for the selection of the competition winners and the artificial-intelligence-powered EuroDataCube.

“EuroDatacube will enable the best ideas to be scaled up to a global level,” said Josef Aschbacher, director of Earth Observation Programmes at ESA. “The pandemic crisis has a worldwide impact, therefore international cooperation and sharing of data and expertise with partners like NASA and JAXA seems the most suitable approach.”

JAXA is making Earth observing data available from its satellite missions, including ALOS-2, GOSAT, GOSAT-2, GCOM-C, GCOM-W, and GPM/DPR. In a statement, JAXA Vice President Terada Koji said, “JAXA welcomes the opportunity to be part of the hackathon. I believe the trilateral cooperation among ESA, NASA and JAXA is important to demonstrate how Earth observation can support global efforts in combating this unprecedented challenge.”

Space Apps is an international hackathon that takes place in cities around the world. Since 2012, teams have engaged with NASA’s free and open data to address real-world problems on Earth and in space. The COVID-19 Challenge will be the program’s first global virtual hackathon.

Space Apps 2019 included more than 29,000 participants at 225 events in 71 countries, developing more than 2,000 hackathon solutions over the course of one weekend.

A look at Filipino developers using NASA’s free and open data to solve real-world problems on Earth and space.

Since 2016, many Filipinos participated in the annual hackathon. Recently, a dengue mapping forecasting system was developed by data scientists from CirroLytix using satellite and climate data with the goal of addressing the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. This web application, called Project AEDES won globally for the best use of data.

Related: Filipino Dengue Case Predictor Mapping System Triumphs in the 2019 NASA Global Hackathon

“Earth observation data has the potential to be used in fighting epidemics and outbreaks threatening humanity nowadays, as well as to analyze its socio-economic impact,” according to software developer Michael Lance M. Domagas, who led the Philippine hackathon in collaboration with De La Salle University, PLDT, Department of Science and Technology, United Nations Development Programme, and the U.S. embassy.

The very first Philippine winner used citizen science and environmental data to develop a smartphone application informing fishermen the right time to catch fish. ISDApp is currently being incubated at Animo Labs.

Space Apps is a NASA-led initiative organized globally in collaboration with Booz Allen Hamilton, Mindgrub and SecondMuse. The next annual Space Apps Challenge is scheduled for October 2-4.

Registration is now open via: https://covid19.spaceappschallenge.org/