NASA and crowdsourcing platform HeroX have launched a $30,000 challenge to find better ways to analyze data on… MarsThe possibility of hosting life.
The goal is to create a tool to independently analyze streaming data from spectrometers on Mars rovers perseverance And the Curiosity of. Their spectrometers are used to analyze the composition of rocks and look for components such as organic moleculeswhich can be the building blocks of life in some circumstances.
Perhaps Mars hosted life because of the presence of liquid water on its surface in antiquity. It’s unclear whether life arose there, or whether such life persisted into the modern era, but the prospect is tantalizing enough that NASA and the European Space Agency are working together on the Mars sample return mission It would allow the analysis of pristine red planet materials here on Earth. In the meantime, though, NASA has several missions to the Red Planet that may benefit from improvements in technology to search for life.
More and more engineers aim to get spacecraft to choose the most interesting data themselves before sending it back to Earth, since the space-to-Earth communications channel has a limited bandwidth.
“Communication between rovers and Earth is severely restricted, with limited transmission rates and short daily communication windows,” says the HeroX Challenge page, referring to the problem scientists face in working on Mars.
“When scientists on Earth receive samples of data from the rover, they must quickly analyze it and make difficult conclusions about chemistry in order to prioritize the next processes and send those instructions back to the rover.”
HeroX says competitors should build models capable of detecting “families” of chemical compounds from advanced gas analysis, which studies the volatile compounds that a substance releases as it heats up. The analysis will be performed on representative samples.
“The winning techniques can be used to help analyze data from Mars, and possibly even inform future designs of planetary mission instruments,” the organization said.
HeroX noted that the platform plans to involve several communities in the findings, including planetary geologists, analytical chemists, and data scientists.
“The solutions to this challenge are intended to serve as a stepping stone for ongoing research and development,” HeroX said. “The challenge organizers intend to make the data available online after the competition for continuous improvement.”